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Foodborne illness lawyer discusses Jensen case

Growers Facing Charges In Unprecedented Case

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The Jensen brothers are unlikely to walk away untouched from the federal charges against them, according to a Seattle-based foodborne illness lawyer.

Eric and Ryan Jensen were charged with introducing tainted cantaloupe into interstate commerce.

"It's a pretty unprecedented move," said Bill Marler, who represents dozens of listeria victims' families.

Marler has dealt with foodborne-related cases for 20 years, but none have been like the Jensens'.

"In the cases where they have prosecuted in the past, there's been real clear evidence that the owners of the company absolutely knew that the product was contaminated when it left their plant," he said. "The Jensens, I think, were inept and I think they weren't paying attention to really common sensical food-safety practices, but there just does not appear to be at all, any evidence that they knowingly shipped contaminated product."

Whether the Jensens knew contaminated fruit was leaving their farm or not won't matter. Marler said the law only requires that the product that was shipped was contaminated. He said whatever the outcome is, the case is sending a strong message to other growers about the importance of food safety.

He said it's also a message of justice for families of listeria victims. But it doesn't make things all better.

"For the husbands and the wives who lost their spouse of 50, 60 years, people who lost their parents, it's still a pretty big hole in their lives," Marler said.

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