The Colorado farmers who distributed cantaloupes infected with listeria two years ago pleaded guilty in federal court to criminal charges Tuesday. Jensen Farms, located outside Holly, Colo., was the source of the outbreak that killed 33 people nationwide.
The outbreak was the deadliest in more than 20 years. Cantaloupes processed in the summer of 2011 at Jensen Farms near the Kansas border were laden with listeria. It’s a pathogen infamous for its high mortality rate.
The Food and Drug Administration is ratcheting up inspections this year on cantaloupe farms and other processing facilities throughout the country. The increased scrutiny is in direct response to two large-scale outbreaks of deadly food borne bacteria.
Both outbreaks were tied directly to tainted cantaloupe. Salmonella on melons from Indiana and listeria on some from Colorado killed 36 people.
The repercussions were felt by cantaloupe growers throughout the country - including Michael Hirakata in Colorado’s Arkansas River valley.