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Criminal Charges Filed Against Jensen Farms Owners

DENVER (CBS4) - Criminal charges have been filed in the 2011 listeria outbreak from cantaloupe that killed more than 30 people across the country.

It was one of the deadliest foodborne illnesses in the history of the United States. A total of 33 people died from the outbreak, including nine in Colorado, and an estimated 147 people were infected.

The source of the outbreak was traced to cantaloupe from Jensen Farms near Holly in Southeastern Colorado.

Jensen Farms
Jensen Farms (credit: CBS)

The charges are in federal court in Denver against brothers Eric and Ryan Jensen, the brothers who own the facility.

The first reports came in of people becoming ill from listeria in September 2011. It's a bacteria that causes fever, muscle aches and diarrhea, and in many cases even death.

An FDA investigation ultimately traced the bacteria to a Jensen Farms packing facility located nearby in Granada. It is there the cantaloupe were washed and packed.

A device used previously for potatoes had been used and unsanitary conditions were reported.

"As this case so tragically reminds us, food processors play a critical role in ensuring that our food is safe," said U.S. Attorney John Walsh in a prepared statement. "They bear a special responsibility to ensure that the food they produce and sell is not dangerous to the public. Where they fail to live up to that responsibility, and as these charges demonstrate, this office and the Food and Drug Administration have a responsibility to act forcefully to enforce the law."

There have been multiple lawsuits by families of those who became ill or died.

Jensen Farms filed for bankruptcy protection, which was meant to free up insurance money to the victims.

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