After deadly listeria outbreak, victims' families will meet privately with Jensen Farms owners

Families will be able to ask farmers questions

DENVER - 7NEWS has learned the families of those who lost loved ones in the deadly listeria outbreak will meet privately in Denver Tuesday with the farmers whose cantaloupe crop was linked to the illnesses.

During the meeting at the U.S. Attorney's Office, victims' family members will be able to ask questions and make statements to Eric and Ryan Jensen, the two brothers who owned and operated Jensen Farms in Holly, Colo.

The 2011 listeria outbreak that authorities linked to Jensen Farms killed at least 33 people and hospitalized 147 others across the United States.

On Oct. 22, the Jensen brothers pleaded guilty in Denver federal court to six counts of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce.

As part of their guilty plea, the Jensens agreed to answer questions from victims' family members.

Among those meeting with the farmers will be Jennifer Exley. Her father Herb Stevens died earlier this year of complications from eating listeria-tainted cantaloupe.

  "It is a fact finding mission," Jennifer Exley told 7NEWS reporter Marc Stewart.

 "It's going to be hard since my father just died in July. It's still kind of fresh," the daughter said. "I want to ask them if they're remorseful for the victims, for the families."

 "I think it's going to depend on what they have to say, whether I feel any sympathy or empathy for them," Exley said.

Food safety attorney Bill Marler, who represents 46 families in the Jensen Farms case, said Tuesday's meeting is important. Yet, Marler said others responsible for safeguarding the food supply chain, including the government, need to be held accountable, too.

"It's not just a couple of farmers in Holly, Colorado, doing a bad job, which they did. It's the system, the entire system that allows it," Marler said.