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Congressional Listeria Probe Critical Of Jensen Farms, FDA & Auditors

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Cantaloupe (credit: CBS)

Cantaloupe (credit: CBS)

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LITTLETON (CBS4) – A congressional report out Tuesday assigns blame and makes recommendations following the deadly listeria outbreak linked to Colorado cantaloupe.

Thirty people died and 146 people were infected from the outbreak linked to Jensen Farms near Holly.

The report is critical not just of Jensen Farms where it all began, but the Food and Drug Administration and auditors who inspected the farm.

The cause remains tied to a packing shed in Greneda, west of Jensen Farms. The report cites a new packing and washing technique with non-chlorinated water as the probable cause of the outbreak.

Herb Stevens of Littleton is one of the lucky ones who became ill, but survived.

“I just couldn’t move and couldn’t do much of anything,” Stevens told CBS4 Investigator Rick Sallinger.

“It’s totally changed his life now. He now has to walk with a walker and probably will have to be like that for the rest of his life,” Stevens’ daughter Jennifer Exley said.

The congressional report was especially hard on third party auditors, which had inspected the farm before the outbreak. It said the auditors lacked any regulatory authority, did not insure that any problems it found would be resolved, and had multiple conflicts of interest.

The audit gave the farm a high rating, even though it found the packing shed had wooden tables that can trap bacteria, a lack of hot water for washing, and doors were left open for pests to enter.

Stevens is still recovering from eating the melon.

“They should inspect the melons and plants and make sure they’re good,” Stevens said.

“I think the third party auditors saw the conditions. I think they chose to ignore the conditions,” Exley said.

Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver is on the committee that issued the report. She has written a letter to the FDA saying she’s disturbed by the findings, but pleased that some steps are being taken to prevent it from happening again in the future.

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