Listeria Cantaloupe Farm Files For Bankruptcy

Listeria Cantaloupe Farm Files For BankruptcyJensen Farms of Holly, Colorado has filed for bankruptcy following a deadly Listeria outbreak linked to the farm’s cantaloupe that killed more than 30 people last year and caused at least 142 hospitalizations.

Reuters just wrote that Jensen Farms filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to court documents, listing $2.1 million in assets and more than $2.5 million in liabilities. The documents were filed last week in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Denver, Colorado and listed a number of wrongful death lawsuits it is facing.

The massive Listeria poisoning outbreak spanned 28 states in what a Congressional committee described as the “deadliest food-borne occurrence in 25 years,” said Reuters. According to the Congressional report, 146 people were affected by the bacterial listeriosis infection; one woman suffered a miscarriage.

Investigators with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) indicated that Jensen Farms neglected to store its cantaloupes properly after the produce was harvested, said Reuters. Also, Jensen Farms stopped chlorinating the water it used to wash the melons, which was what which allowed the Listeria bacteria to thrive.

Jensen isn’t the only firm being sued. Jensen Farms’ distributor is being sued as are some retail grocers, including Kroger and Wal-Mart, which sold the tainted melons, said Reuters. The outbreak could lead to criminal charges and the farm’s owners could face prosecution.

As we’ve written, this Listeria outbreak originated with Jensen Farms having ignored FDA guidelines and involved four different Listeria monocytogenes strains. The Congressional investigation revealed that the massive outbreak might have been avoided had Jensen Farms of Holly, Colorado, followed U.S. guidelines that say fruit should be washed in chlorinated water. Jensen Farms also did not have new, FDA-recommended processing equipment, said the House Energy and Commerce Committee report.

In addition to the one pregnant woman suffering a miscarriage as a result of Listeria poisoning, four illnesses involved pregnant women, and one newborn was diagnosed with listeriosis, the infection caused by the Listeria pathogen.

A number of lawsuits have been filed including a lawsuit filed by the family of an 89-year-old Texas woman who allege her death was the result of consuming Listeria-tainted Jensen Cantaloupe. Frontera Produce Ltd. was named in that lawsuit.

We previously explained that dirty equipment and unsanitary conditions and practices have been blamed for contaminating whole or pre-cut Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupes from Jensen Farms. Although the FDA could not identify the outbreak’s exact cause, it cited violations in sanitary conditions, writing that, “These positive swabs were taken from different locations throughout the washing and packing areas in your facility, all of which were either food contact surfaces or areas adjacent to food contact surfaces. This significant percentage of swabs that tested positive for outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes demonstrates widespread contamination throughout your facility and indicates poor sanitary practices in the facility.” previously noted that a third-party auditor, which conduced yearly inspections at Jensen Farms in 2010-2011, was criticized for not following FDA inspection guidance.

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