2 in custody in Listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupes

Sept. 26, 2013 at 5:12 PM
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HOLLY, Colo., Sept. 26 (UPI) -- Two Colorado cantaloupe growers turned themselves in to U.S. authorities Thursday to face misdemeanor charges in a 2011 outbreak of listeria, prosecutors said.

Eric Jensen, 37, and Ryan Jensen, 33 -- who owned and operated Jensen Farms in Granada, Colo. -- were charged Tuesday with six counts, including introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce, the Food Safety News website reported.

The Jensen brothers were scheduled to have a court hearing Thursday afternoon but prosecutors said they would not ask for pretrial detention, the report said.

Court records allege the two introduced adulterated cantaloupe into interstate commerce. The cantaloupe, carrying the toxic bacteria Listeria monocytogenes, was prepared, packed and stored held under conditions that made it harmful to consume.

Prosecutors said the Jensens changed the equipment at a processing center where cantaloupe were collected from the field, cleaned, cooled and packaged -- installing a cleaning system designed for potatoes and failing to use a chlorine spray to remove bacteria from the cantaloupe.

As a result, prosecutors said, at six shipments of contaminated cantaloupe were distributed to 28 states, where the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said at least 33 people died and 147 were hospitalized after eating the contaminated melons.

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