HOLLY - The owners of a Colorado cantaloupe farm have been arrested on charges stemming from a listeria outbreak in 2011 that killed 33 people.
Federal prosecutors have decided to criminally charge two brothers who owned and operated the now-bankrupt Jensen Farms near Holly. The cantaloupe provider was directly linked to a national listeria outbreak which killed at least 33 and sickened another 147 people in 2011.
PRESS RELEASE: Jensen Farms' owners charged
9Wants to Know has learned federal prosecutors have charged Ryan and Eric Jensen with various misdemeanors stemming from the tainted crop.
They appeared in federal court Thursday and plead not guilty. They were both released on a $100,000 bond.
The attorney who represents 46 families issued a statement on his website on Wednesday saying that he was pleased the US Attorney's office has recognized "that some form of criminal sanctions were appropriate against Jensen Farms." Seattle-based attorney Bill Marler first urged the US Attorney's office to consider criminal charges last year.
The Centers for Disease Control linked cantaloupe grown at Jensen Farms to the listeria outbreak in the fall of 2011. In October of that year, the FDA found that Jensen Farms' packing and storage facilities likely helped spread the listeria in such a way that directly contributed to the outbreak.
One piece of equipment, a used potato washing machine, was cited directly by the FDA as a possible cause of the outbreak. "Several areas on both the washing and drying equipment appeared to be un-cleanable, and dirt and product buildup was visible on some areas of the equipment," read the FDA report.
Criminal charges in food-contamination cases are rare. Prosecutors say they're pursuing this case because of the number of deaths.
It was the deadliest outbreak of foodborne illness in 25 years. The federal Centers for Disease Control say people in 28 states ate the fruit.
(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation with The Associated Press)