FDA Targets Jensen Farms Packing Plant As Source Of Listeria

An FDA investigation, which collected samples from Jensen Farms, has identified the presence of listeria inside their packing facility. They say that is the cause of the infection which has spread to 26 states.


The Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday morning that the deadly listeria outbreak in cantaloupe was probably caused by pools of water on the floor and old, hard-to-clean packing equipment at a Colorado farm.

The outbreak was quickly tied to Jensen Farms deep in the Arkansas Valley near the Kansas border. The melons were recalled just over two weeks after the outbreak was identified, but the number of related illnesses has continued to grow.

KKTV 11 News and our affiliate CBS4 in Denver first reported this information Monday when CBS4 investigator Rick Sallinger learned about the pending FDA report. Investigators found positive listeria samples on equipment and fruit in the packing facility.

The FDA says a truck used to haul culled cantaloupe to a cattle operation was parked adjacent to the packing facility and could have introduced contamination into the facility. The infection could also have been brought to the facility from a low-level contamination in the field, but there was no germs found on the field.

However the deadly infection was brought to the facility, the FDA says there were a number of factors that allowed it to spread. Jensen Farms had recently purchased used equipment that was corroded and hard to clean. The agency also said the way the cantaloupes were cooled after coming off the fields may have also contributed to listeria growth.

Despite the recall, the CDC announced Tuesday that a total of 123 people were infected in 26 states. A total of 25 people have died from the illness and one pregnant woman had a miscarriage.

Bill Marler is a Seattle attorney representing several of the victim’s families. He said Monday that he believed the packing equipment is where the case is centered. “Listeria loves cool temperatures, and that’s where it grows the best, so I am not surprised that the facility may have been less than sterile,” Marler said.

The farm’s owner, Eric Jensen, confirmed that the listeria was found in the packing facility during an initial inspection, but did not turn up during a later environmental assessment.

From the field, cantaloupe are harvested then transported to the packing shed. There they are washed before being shipped, encountering the equipment that the FDA has identified.

“When you are cooling down a product and you’re getting a product wet, it’s the perfect environment for listeria contamination,” Marler said.

The farm owners insist the packing facility was cleaned regularly and don’t understand how the bacteria could have turned up on its equipment.

The FDA has issued a "warning letter" to Jensen Farms, and says they still consider this an open investigation. The CDC says they'll continue to monitor the situation, as the number of illnesses could still continue to grow for another two weeks.

All the information from the FDA report is available online at http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/CORENetwork/ucm272372.htm

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  • by Just wondering ?? Location: COS on Oct 19, 2011 at 05:02 PM
    I'll just bet poor ol Mr Jensen was following every rule that the Govmt has put in place BUT without them rules I;ll bet he wouldnt have had on his property in the first place because of them I believe it takes him longer REAL farmers arnt in in for the money its breed into them Mr Jensen I wish you all the luck and I don't think you should be responsible for the melons that were eaten after the recall if the people would have had a pea for a brain they would have thought about it before they pigged out !!
  • by JackM Location: Denver on Oct 19, 2011 at 10:41 AM
    ML's parents are cousins. Reread the article there buddy.
  • by nancy Location: colorado springs on Oct 19, 2011 at 09:34 AM
    This is such a tragedy All the food that was lost and of course the precious lives lost All around tradgic
  • by Mike Location: COS on Oct 19, 2011 at 03:55 AM
    How unfortunate for all affected. It serves as a reminder that nature can be cruel and spares no one. I am surprised we don't see this more often with an array of products suseptable to natures wrath.
  • by ML on Oct 18, 2011 at 08:24 PM
    @Ann, did you actually read the article? It says, "However the deadly germs were located a few miles away at the farm’s packing facility in Granada." So, no apology deserved.
  • by Ann Location: COS on Oct 18, 2011 at 06:36 PM
    Jensen Farm deserves an apology.
    • reply
      by Ponderment on Oct 19, 2011 at 06:50 PM in reply to Ann
      Don't make a statement like this and not explain why! So, I am going to ask, why does anyone owe ferm an apology?
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Oct 20, 2011 at 06:19 AM in reply to Ponderment
        I think she thinks it's not Jensens fault.
  • by Anonymous on Oct 18, 2011 at 07:08 AM
    Control C, you seem to be confusing this site with actual journalism.
  • by Anonymous on Oct 18, 2011 at 06:35 AM
    Wonder what rude little Miss Microbiology has to say about this?
    • reply
      by get over it on Oct 19, 2011 at 09:12 PM in reply to
      Get over it, you uneducated idiot. At least the rocky ford girl is doing something constructive with her life. I am a woman and I am ashamed to say that you are not representing us well. She, if it was a she, wasnt rude. You just didnt agree with what she had to say. Get off a public forum if you cant handle it. I read all your comments, and she was more right than you were. It just took alot for her to blow you off.... the difference is.. you will always be anonymous.
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Oct 20, 2011 at 06:07 AM in reply to get over it
        What, being anonymous is a bad thing? Like her, you have no idea who you speak to on these these. You people jump to the conclusion that fits best. This has nothing to do with being a woman, she decided that I was male, I just corrected her. And she was rude, and if you like supporting rude people have at it. Would she speak like that(and I'm not talking about how she spoke to me) to customers at her stand? Or was it just her mask of "anonymity"? This whole situation irks me. She was being very rude, judgmental, and hateful at times to people WHO WERE SCARED, you like people like that?
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Oct 20, 2011 at 09:41 AM in reply to
      I'm sorry, I am out of line. Please accept my apology, I now realize my behavior is no better than what I believed was happening, I too was rude.
      • reply
        by Bissy on Oct 20, 2011 at 12:03 PM in reply to
        I live in Rocky Ford, and I know in person the girl you were speaking about. She is a good girl and she and her brother are always helping me out, and with winter coming, again they will help me. In all my 77 years, I have never been so enthralled with a public forum. I researched 'listeria' and was able to find both of your comments, and I must say I was shocked that she even entertained the thought to debate with you. One thing dear, that you must realize is that us farmers, find it sad that Jensens will struggle through this, but not near as sad as loss of life. However, simple necessities such as food preperations and precautions were not taken by said consumer(s) and that is not at fault of Jensens farm. Your attitude towards her was poor when you started on the defense, it clearly shows in the writing. She did defend against the Veteran, because all he wants out of the issue is for the farm to be penalized. You came into a conversation that was not your own. We love our people and communities, and we love our produce. We dont do this for money, it is what we are raised into. Including the girl. Maybe your apology should be to her, not anyone else. Enough now, this makes my arthritis flare up. Im just another old lady getting her two cents in! Rather fun, actually
  • by Control C Location: CS on Oct 17, 2011 at 10:22 PM
    Copy and paste much? At least proof read what you post KKTV.
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