US farmers tied to listeria outbreak plead guilty

By By P. SOLOMON BANDA

DENVER (AP) — Two farmers in Colorado whose cantaloupes were tied to a 2011 listeria outbreak that killed 33 people pleaded guilty on Tuesday to misdemeanor charges under a deal with federal prosecutors.

Eric and Ryan Jensen entered the pleas in federal court in Denver to six counts of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce.

A sentencing hearing has been set for Jan. 28. The deal didn't address the brothers' possible punishment.

Officials have said people in 28 states ate the contaminated fruit and 147 were hospitalized.

A statement from the Jensens' attorneys says the brothers were shocked and saddened by the deaths, but the guilty pleas do not imply any intentional wrongdoing or knowledge that the cantaloupes were contaminated.

The brothers have sued the safety auditor who gave their farm a "superior" rating just before the outbreak.

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