Criminal Charges Brought in Food Safety Case


In another show of force against food processors, federal prosecutors in Colorado recently brought criminal charges against two brothers who owned a cantaloupe farm linked to a 2011 listeria outbreak that killed 33 people. The charges filed on September 24, 2013, serve as a reminder that food processors and manufacturers—and others subject to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA)—can be prosecuted even for unintentional conduct.

According to the six-count Information and other court records, Eric and Ryan Jensen introduced adulterated cantaloupe that allegedly “bore and contained” a poisonous bacteria into interstate commerce. Notably, the government does not allege that the Jensens intended to do so. If convicted of all six misdemeanor counts, the Jensens each could face up to six years in prison and up to $1.5 million in fines.

According to John Walsh, U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado: “[Food processors] bear a special responsibility to ensure that the food they produce and sell is not dangerous to the public. Where they fail to live up to that responsibility, and as these charges demonstrate, this office and the Food and Drug Administration have a responsibility to act forcefully to enforce the law.”

The Jensens’ prosecution comes on the heels of an indictment that was unsealed earlier this year against four employees of Peanut Corporation of America, which was linked to a 2009 salmonella outbreak that killed nine people and sickened hundreds. The 76-count indictment in the Middle District of Georgia includes allegations that the defendants introduced adulterated and misbranded food into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud or mislead.

In light of recent events, it is important now more than ever for food processing and manufacturing companies, and those in the distribution chain, to ensure that they are in compliance with their obligations under the FDCA. Ballard Spahr attorneys advise companies on FDCA compliance and defend organizations and individuals being investigated for potential FDCA violations.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Ballard Spahr LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:


Ballard Spahr LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:

Sign up to create your digest using LinkedIn*

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.

Already signed up? Log in here

*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.