Lawsuits to be filed in 2011 listeria outbreak traced to tainted cantaloupe from Jensen Farms

DENVER - 7NEWS has learned as many as 30 lawsuits may be filed in Federal Court next week seeking damages in connection with a deadly listeria outbreak, according to an attorney involved in the case.

In 2011, more than 30 people across the country died after consuming the contaminated cantaloupes. All of the tainted fruit was produced by Jensen Farms in Holly, Colorado.

The melons were recalled on September 14, 2011.

According to Seattle-based food safety attorney Bill Marler, the timing of the lawsuit filing is based on a two-year statute of limitations concerning food poisoning cases.

Efforts to settle out of court have failed, Marler said.

7NEWS also learned federal investigators sought the medical records of those who became sick from attorneys about one year ago. Reporter Marc Stewart did inquire with the United States Attorney’s office today about the status of their probe, but an official would not comment.

Nearly two years after the contamination, the impact is still being felt.

On Tuesday evening, 86 year old Herb Stevens of Littleton died. In an interview with 7NEWS, his family says he never fully recovered after eating the tainted cantaloupe. 

"I think the growers have to be more vigilant.  I think the people who bring things into their stores need to be very, very careful," said his widow, Elaine Stevens.

This is a family crusade: daughter Jennifer Exley testified before the FDA in support of the Food Modernization Act.  Passed in 2011 , it creates new standards for farmers.

"It's a huge trust we have to put on our food supply and our producers.  And I unfortunately with this experience with my father, I don't have that trust anymore,” said Exley.

As the family fights to change the industry,  they also want all of us to pay better attention  by doing simple things, like washing what we eat.

"A lot people are in such a big hurry for everything today, that they don't take the time to do the things they should do," said Stevens.

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