Brothers Charged Over Cantaloupes That Killed 33

Lawyer: Jensens had no knowledge of contamination

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 27, 2013 4:03 AM CDT | Updated Sep 27, 2013 5:14 AM CDT

(Newser) – Two cantaloupe growers—brothers Eric and Ryan Jensen, 37 and 33—have been federally charged over the 2011 listeria outbreak that left 33 dead and hundreds of others ill. The brothers, whose family has been farming for four generations, turned themselves in; they pleaded not guilty to six counts of misdemeanor introducing adulterated food into the food supply, the Denver Post reports. Their trial begins in December; each charge could mean a year in prison and a fine of $250,000.

It's unusual for such a case to result in prosecution—particularly if, as the Jensens' lawyer says, they neither "knew" nor "should have known that the cantaloupes had been contaminated." But this case's "magnitude"—it involved people in 28 states—made it different, says a US attorney. Says the daughter of a victim: "I'm glad they were charged. I don't think they did anything on purpose, but I think they had very sloppy farming practices."

In this Sept. 28, 2011, file photo, co-owner Eric Jensen examines cantaloupe on Jensen Farms near Holly, Colo.
In this Sept. 28, 2011, file photo, co-owner Eric Jensen examines cantaloupe on Jensen Farms near Holly, Colo.   (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, File)
Ryan Jensen, 33, leaves the federal courthouse in Denver on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013.
Ryan Jensen, 33, leaves the federal courthouse in Denver on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013.   (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
Eric Jensen leaves the federal courthouse in Denver on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013.
Eric Jensen leaves the federal courthouse in Denver on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013.   (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
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