DENVERTwo Colorado brothers who pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the 2011 deadly Listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupes grown on their farm have been sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay restitution to victims.
In his ruling, U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Michael E. Hegarty sentenced Eric Jensen, 37, and his 33-year-old brother Ryan each to five years of probation, $150,000 in restitution, 100 hours of community service and six months of home detention.
In October 2013, the brothers were charged with six counts of adulteration of a food and aiding and abetting stemming from one of the largest outbreaks of listeriosis in U.S. history that caused 147 illnesses in 28 states, including 33 deaths and one miscarriage.
Each charge carried a maximum penalty of one year in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Family members of some of the victims in the outbreak testified during todays sentencing hearing. While some asked for probation, relatives of Michael Houser, who died as the result of Listeria after eating the contaminated cantaloupe, asked the judge to impose jail time.
Last year, Jensen Farms filed for bankruptcy, and it recently settled civil claims filed against it by victims and their families. Several other companies in the food-supply chain have been sued as well.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found the outbreak was potentially caused by a number of factors within Jensen Farms' control. For instance, prosecutors said Jensen Farms failed to use a chlorine spray that would have reduced the risk of microbial contamination of the cantaloupes.
For a timeline of events, view the 2011 Cantaloupe Listeria Outbreak: A Slide Show."