Victims of Listeria-tainted cantaloupe outbreak meet privately with Jensen Farms owners

DENVER - Family members of victims of the deadly 2011 Listeria outbreak met face-to-face Tuesday with cantaloupe farmers, Eric and Ryan Jensen.

The brothers owned and operated Jensen Farms in Holly, Colorado, which was the source of the tainted-cantaloupe that killed 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 plea, the Jensens agreed to meet with victims and answer questions about what happened at their farm. About a dozen people attended the private meeting at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Denver.

The 90-minute meeting included a presentation by the Jensens about their farm’s operation, according to victims who were in the room.

Among those attending was Elaine Stevens, whose husband Herb died in July from Listeria-related complications after eating contaminated cantaloupe.

"It gave us a chance to actually put faces on the Jensen brothers," Elaine Stevens told 7NEWS reported Marc Stewart. "I don't think that they meant to do anything deliberately wrong. But they followed some procedures that just weren't quite right."

Stevens’ daughter, Jennifer Exley, also attended. Exley has become a food safety activist since her father’s death.

"Somebody asked me once if I thought they were bad people," Exley said. "I couldn't answer the question at that time. I personally don't think the Jensens are bad people. I think they were led astray. In their heart, I think they've done something wrong."

Exley stressed the Jensens aren’t the only ones who need to be held accountable.  She feels the government and the grocery stores need to accept responsibility as well.

Since the Listeria outbreak, the Jensen brothers have declared bankruptcy.