Colorado cantaloupe farmers in listeria case will plead guilty - Omaha.com
Published Thursday, October 17, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 5:45 pm
Colorado cantaloupe farmers in listeria case will plead guilty

DENVER (AP) — Two Colorado cantaloupe farmers plan to plead guilty under a deal with federal prosecutors in connection with the 2011 listeria outbreak that killed 33 people in the nation’s deadliest case of foodborne illness in a quarter century.

Eric and Ryan Jensen were charged last month with introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. At the time, the Food and Drug Administration said the rare move was intended to send a message to food producers.

Criminal charges are rare in foodborne illnesses, but the FDA under President Barack Obama has been more aggressive in pursuing farmers and food processors for alleged lapses.

The brothers filed documents Tuesday notifying the court that they would plead guilty to unspecified charges under the agreements. Details typically aren’t disclosed until the hearing where defendants formally change their pleas.

Ryan Jensen’s lawyer, Richard Banta, declined comment Wednesday and Eric Jensen’s lawyer didn’t immediately return a call. A prosecutors’ spokesman wasn’t available to comment because of the government shutdown.

According to the FDA, conditions at Jensen Farms in southeast Colorado led to the 2011 outbreak. Federal investigators said the melons likely were contaminated in the farm’s packing house because of dirty water on the floor and old, hard-to-clean equipment.

Officials said people in 28 states ate the contaminated fruit, and 147 required hospitalization. In Nebraska, six people got sick and one died.

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