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FDA Report To Reveal Listera Outbreak Stems From Packing Facility

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The Jensen Farms packing facility in Grenada (credit: CBS)

The Jensen Farms packing facility in Grenada (credit: CBS)

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DENVER (CBS4) – The Food and Drug Administration will soon issue a report showing the deadly listeria outbreak stems from the packing facility of Jensen Farms near Holly.

The nationwide outbreak has killed 23 and another 116 people have gotten sick in 25 states.

CBS4 investigator Rick Sallinger learned the FDA report will reveal what’s called the “root cause” of the outbreak. The report could come out as early as this week.

The outbreak was quickly tied to Jensen Farms deep in the Arkansas Valley near the Kansas border. But the owners of the farm have been told that no bacteria was found on the farm itself. However the deadly germs were located a few miles away at the farm’s packing facility in Granada.

Bill Marler is a Seattle attorney representing several of the victim’s families. He believes the packing equipment is where the case is centered.

“Listeria loves cool temperatures, and that’s where it grows the best, so I am not surprised that the facility may have been less than sterile,” Marler said.

The farm’s owner, Eric Jensen, told CBS4 the listeria was found in the packing facility during an initial inspection, but did not turn up during a later environmental assessment.

From the field cantaloupe are harvested then transported to the packing shed. There they are washed before being shipped, and moisture may be a key factor in the outbreak.

“When you are cooling down a product and you’re getting a product wet, it’s the perfect environment for listeria contamination,” Marler said.

The farm owners insist the packing facility was cleaned regularly and don’t understand how the bacteria could have turned up on its equipment.

Sallinger learned the FDA report will deal not only with the root cause of the deadly outbreak, but will make recommendations how to prevent it from happening in the future.

Five Coloradans are among those who’ve died in the listeria outbreak.

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