Jensen Farms had been a fixture in the dry plains of southeastern Colorado since the early 1900s, when the first Jensen arrived from Denmark. Brothers Ryan and Eric Jensen inherited what was an approximately 160-acre farm from their father after he died several years ago, and they expanded it out to about 6,000 acres, growing cantaloupes along with hay and alfalfa and other grains.
"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," according to the FDA report.
The listeria outbreak connected to Jensen Farms' cantaloupes began in late August 2011.
Eric and Ryan Jensen, ages 37 and 33, of the now-bankrupt Jensen Farms were arrested Thursday and each charged with six misdemeanor counts of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce.
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The men appeared Thursday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Denver and were released on unsecured bonds. The Jensens each could face up to six years in prison and up to $1.5 million in fines if they are convicted of all six counts, prosecutors said.
The cantaloupe growers' farm is considered the source of a national listeria outbreak that killed at least 33 and sickened another 147 people in 2011, one of the country's most deadly outbreaks of food-borne illness, according to government investigators.
The lawyer who represents 46 families in several civil lawsuits against the farmers issued a statement on his website Wednesday saying he was pleased the U.S. Attorney's office has recognized "that some form of criminal sanctions were appropriate against Jensen Farms." Lawyer .........continue reading