Criminal Justice

Cantaloupe farmers sentenced for listeria outbreak that killed 33

The federal defendants in a Colorado case involving a cantaloupe listeria outbreak were sentenced today to probation and six months of home detention, the Associated Press reports.

A Denver federal magistrate also ordered that Eric and Ryan Jensen, who are brothers, each pay $150,000 in restitution. The Jensens previously pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. They could have received up to six years in prison, according to the AP, and $1.5 million in fines.


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The outbreak, which occurred in 2011, reportedly caused 33 deaths and sickened 147 people in 28 states. According to federal investigators, the melons were probably contaminated in the Jensens’ packing house, which had dirty water on the floor and processing equipment that was old and hard to clean.

William Marler, a lawyer who represents the families of people who died from the listeria outbreak, said that probation for the Jensens is adequate. The brothers have sought bankruptcy protection, according to the article, and that provided the victims and their families with approximately $4 million. A bankruptcy judge estimated that the damages were $50 million.

According to the brothers, their operation got a “superior rating” from independent auditors one month before the listeria outbreak. They are suing the auditors, according to the AP, and have said that any money they get will go to the victims.

The victims and their families have filed a lawsuit (PDF) against retailers and auditors involved in the case, according to the AP.

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