Home > Colorado farmers receive five years probation for contaminated cantaloupes

Colorado farmers receive five years probation for contaminated cantaloupes

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Two Colorado farmers whose lax safety precautions led to the death of 33 people have avoided prison time and instead have been sentenced to five years’ probation and ordered to pay $300,000 in legal costs.

Eric and Ryan Jensen were facing up to six year imprisonment and a $1.5m fine for charges relating contaminated cantaloupes grown on their farm in eastern Colorado on the Kansas border, NBC News reports.

Families of the victims were reportedly disappointed with the ruling, sighting that a harsher sentence would have been more appropriate.

The fruit - which claimed the lives of 33 people and hospitalised 147 others in 28 states across the US - was contaminated with listeria in May 2011. The contamination was believed to have happened as a result of the farmers using the same system that washes potatoes to wash cantaloupes. In addition, the brothers also neglected to use safety measures such as a chlorine spray which may have considerably cut down the presence of bacteria.

A federal investigation found that the farm had employed a food safety auditor to check the product prior to shipment, but however failed to rectify the situation. One of the victim’s family members, Paul Schwarz whose father passed away as a result of consuming the contaminated fruit said that he was disappointed at the ruling and added that the third-party auditors should also be held accountable.

“I’ll accept it but I’m not happy,” Schwarz told NBC News.

“I think other people should have been sitting there as well.”

The lighter sentence was believed to have been handed down due to a sincere display of remorse demonstrated by the brothers who had both met with the families of the victims in addition to assisting with the investigation.

A lawyer for the Jensen’s reiterated that there was no intentional wrongdoing on behalf of the brothers, and that they had pleaded guilty to the charges last year because the incident “happened on their watch.

krossbow via photopin cc

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