Thursday, September 26, 2013

Criminal charges for farmers... really?

Two Colorado brothers who operated a cantaloupe farm in Colorado are being charged criminally for the outbreak of listeria that was traced to their farm. 

Their crime, apparently, was to buy used processing equipment that was hard to clean, and to use that equipment in their operation.  They were charged with misdemeanor (vs a felony charge) because their contamination was apparently unintentional

Statement from their lawyer:  ""The charges against Eric and Ryan Jensen do not imply that they knew, or even should have known, that the cantaloupes had been contaminated..." link.

This was a large outbreak, and unfortunately, it was pretty serious.  People died.   But people die from all sorts of food-related contamination. 

Ok.  So lets say that I grow lettuce.  Do you think that it's reasonable for me to now risk criminal charges for contamination that I did not know about? 

What do you think? 


George said...

I think that is ridiculous.. These people have essentially lost their farm over this mistake, they've lost enough. If more punitive measures are to be taken, just fine them, don't give em a criminal record.. sheesh.

If courts are taking these cases, where are the misdemeanor and felony charges for bankers, real estate brokers, auto manufacturers, etc etc.

Bruce King said...

They declared bankruptcy and did lose their farm. Story says they purchased the processing equipment with the intent of doing a better job of cleaning the melons.

George said...

Right, which is why they were not hit with a felony charge instead. Federal charge no less due to interstate commerce. I just think the case should be dropped, they've been punished by the media, the public, the bank etc..

I hope they are using the farm defense fund people as their defense attorneys...

Jeff said...

I listened to Bill Marler, the attorney quoted in the article at the Focus on Farming conference a few years ago. He made me raging mad. Especially as he recounted how much he liked eating eggs from his family's chickens (which probably have a higher risk for salmonella than any egg you can buy in the grocery store).

Every time you eat food, you accept that there is some risk of foodborne illness. The fact that all that risk is put on farmers seems illogical and unfair. I wouldn't want us to go back to pre-"The Jungle" conditions, but all the liability of farming scares me.