Farmers arrested in fatal listeria outbreak

DENVER — The owners of a Colorado cantaloupe farm were arrested Thursday on charges stemming from a 2011 listeria epidemic that killed 33 people in one of the nation’s deadliest outbreaks of foodborne illness.

Federal prosecutors said brothers Eric and Ryan Jensen were arrested on misdemeanor charges of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce.

The Jensens’ attorney did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Prosecutors said the federal Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control determined that the Jensen’s didn’t adequately clean the cantaloupe.

The FDA has said the melons likely were contaminated in Jensen Farms’ packing house. It concluded that dirty water on a floor, and old, hard-to-clean equipment probably were to blame.

The outbreak was the deadliest outbreak of foodborne illness in 25 years. The CDC said people living in 28 states consumed contaminated cantaloupe.

A number of lawsuits were filed by people who were sickened or who had a family member die after the outbreak.

Eric Jensen, 37, and Ryan Jensen, 33, operated their farm in southeastern Colorado. The farm filed for bankruptcy after the outbreak.

The FDA said Jensen Farms had bought the used processing equipment just before the outbreak, and it was corroded, dirty and hard to clean. The packing facility floors also constructed were so they were hard to clean, so pools of water potentially harboring the bacteria formed close to the packing equipment, according to the FDA.

The dirty equipment previously was used to wash and dry potatoes, the agency said, and the listeria could have been introduced as a result of its past use.

The FDA said the way the cantaloupes were cooled after being picked may have exacerbated the listeria growth, and that another possible source of contamination was a truck that frequently hauled cantaloupe to a cattle operation and was parked near the packing house.

More in Herald Business Journal

Snohomish County’s campaign to land the 797 takes off

Executive Dave Somers announced the formation of a task force to urge Boeing to build the plane here.

A decade after the recession, pain and fear linger

No matter how good things are now, it’s impossible to forget how the collapse affected people.

Under cloud of ethics probes, Airbus CEO Enders to step down

He leaves in 2019 after 14 years. Meanwhile, aircraft division CEO Fabrice Bregier leaves in February.

For modern women, 98-year-old rejection letters still sting

In a stark new video, female Boeing engineers break the silence about past inopportunity.

Drone’s ease piercing of NY ‘no-fly’ zone underscores risks

An Army Black Hawk helicopter suffered damage to one of its rotor blades, but was able to land safely.

Tax reform needs the public’s input on spending priorities

The GOP tax plan is a good idea, but the next step should give us a voice on how taxes are spent.

Commentary: GM, Boeing fight a war of words over Mars

Boeing is strongly signaling how crucial deep-space exploration is to its future.

US prosecutors move to cash in on $8.5M in seized bitcoin

The bitcoin cache was worth less than $500,000 when a suspect was arrested on drug charges.

Disney buying large part of 21st Century Fox in $52.4B deal

Before the buyout, 21st Century Fox will spin off the Fox network, stations and cable channels.

Most Read