Eric and Ryan Jensen, owners of the Colorado cantaloupe farm linked to a 2011 food poisoning outbreak which killed 33 people and sickened 147, have been arrested and charged with selling contaminated food.
Eric and Ryan Jensen face up to six years in prison and up to $1.5 million in fines.
The brothers did not adequately wash the melons before selling them, US officials say.
The Jensens called the outbreak a “terrible accident”.
The outbreak of listeriosis stretched from California to Virginia.
The brothers, owners of Jensen Farms, surrendered to US marshals and appeared briefly in federal court on Thursday afternoon.
Eric and Ryan Jensen, owners of the Colorado cantaloupe farm linked to a 2011 food poisoning outbreak which killed 33 people and sickened 147, have been arrested and charged with selling contaminated food
They pleaded not guilty to misdemeanour charges and were released pending trial in December.
The Jensens called the outbreak a “terrible accident” after their court appearance, the Associated Press news agency reported.
A spokesman for the federal prosecutors told the Associated Press they leveled the “most serious” charges they could, as stricter felony counts would required proof the contamination was intentional.
An FDA inquiry found the Jensens installed a new cantaloupe cleaning system – designed to clean potatoes – in 2011.
The system included a chlorine spray meant to remove bacteria, which was never used.
“The defendants were aware that their cantaloupes could be contaminated with harmful bacteria if not sufficiently washed,” the office of the US Attorney for Colorado said in a statement.
“Food processors… bear a special responsibility to ensure that the food they produce and sell is not dangerous to the public,” Attorney John Walsh said in the statement.
The Jensens’ actions resulted in at least six shipments of contaminated cantaloupe being sent to 28 states, officials said.
If convicted, Eric Jensen, 37, and Ryan Jensen, 33, face up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for each of the six counts against them.
A Hepatitis A outbreak across five states traced to an organic frozen berry mix sold at Costco left thirty people have been infected, and nine of them hospitalized.
And health officials are bracing for more cases if cafes and restaurants that bought the frozen blend used it to make smoothies, frozen bar drinks and other desserts for customers.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have linked the reported illnesses to Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend, a mix of berries and pomegranate seeds produced by Townsend Farms in Oregon.
The first victim got sick on April 29 with the most recent case reported on May 17, although USA Today reports more are expected.
The victims, aged between 25 and 71 years old, live in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and California.
About 11 of 17 of those infected said they bought the berry mix at Costco, according to CNN.
A Costco spokesman said that the company has removed the product from stores and is attempting to contact members who purchased the product in recent months.
A Hepatitis A outbreak across five states traced to an organic frozen berry mix sold at Costco left thirty people have been infected, and nine of them hospitalized
Townsend Farms lawyer Bill Gaar said the frozen organic blend bag included pomegranate seeds sourced from Turkey, and were only used in the product associated with the outbreak.
“We do have very good records, we know where the (pomegranate seeds) came from, we’re looking into who the broker is and we’re sourcing it back up the food chain to get to it,” Bill Gaar
He said Townsend Farms believes Costco is the only customer who bought the product but are checking to see if any other retailers also sold it.
CNN reports state health departments, the FDA and the CDC are investigating, after notifying Townsend Farms on Thursday and sending investigators to the Fairview farm.
Hepatitis A is a highly infectious disease which inflames the liver, and is usually transmitted via contaminated food or water, or by someone who is infected.
The Mayo Clinic website states: “Mild cases of Hepatitis A don’t require treatment, and most people who are infected recover completely with no permanent liver damage.”
However, the World Health Organization (WHO) says severe infection can lead to liver failure and death, with about 1.4 million cases of Hepatitis A annually worldwide.
Dole Food Co.’s fresh vegetables division has decided to recall 756 cases of bagged salad out of fears that they could be contaminated with salmonella.
The bags of Seven Lettuces salads were distributed in Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Dole said the bags are being recalled after a random sample tested by the state of New York came back positive for salmonella.
No other Dole salads are included in the recall.
The recalled salads are stamped with a use-by date of April 11, 2012 with the UPC code 71430 01057 and product codes 0577N089112A and 0577N089112B, the company said.
The recalled salads are stamped with a use-by date of April 11, 2012 with the UPC code 71430 01057 and product codes 0577N089112A and 0577N089112B
The product code and use-by date are located in the upper right-hand corner of the package.
The UPC code is on the back of the package below the barcode.
Dole said that it’s coordinating with regulatory officials.
No illnesses have been reported, officials said.
Consumers should throw out the recalled salads.
Dole said it’s also contacting retailers to make sure the bags in question are not available for sale.
The most common symptoms of salmonella infection are diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within eight to 72 hours of eating the contaminated food.
The illness can be severe or even life-threatening for infants, older people, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.