Son of local listeria victim applauds charges for Colo. farmers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The son of a 92-year-old Kansas City man who died after eating listeria-tainted cantaloupe in 2011 called federal charges against the owners of the farm that produced the melon "way overdue," on Thursday, but applauded the government's effort to hold food producers accountable for their products.

"Food safety is paramount in our country. You shouldn't have to worry about eating food," Paul Schwarz told 41 Action News. "A piece of cantaloupe shouldn't kill you. Shouldn't lead to your death."

Schwarz's father, also Paul, died in December of 2011 after four months of painful physical and mental deterioration as he battled listeria bacteria. He became infected with the bacteria after eating contaminated cantaloupe at a Johnson county restaurant in August.

Schwarz was one of 33 people who died after contracting the bacteria. More than 100 others were sickened in the 2011 outbreak-- one of the largest food-borne illness outbreaks in American history.

On Thursday, Eric and Ryan Jensen, the brothers who ran Jensen Farms, which shipped the tainted melons, were arrested in Colorado.

Each was charged with six counts of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce and aiding and abetting. The pair could face six years in prison if convicted and fines of more than $1.5 million.

The arrests came after a Food and Drug Administration investigation found that Jensen farms had cut corners in how their products were packed and cleaned. A sprayer designed to wash the melons with chlorinated water went unused and six contaminated shipments were sent out to 28 states, the investigation concluded.

The younger Schwarz said he would like to see more jail time for the Jensen brothers. He is currently involved in a wrongful death lawsuit against other entities he said were involved in the distribution of the cantaloupes.

"A year in jail would be fine with me. Their life would be better, but you've got to be realistic and follow what the law is," Schwarz said.

Read more on the charges against the melon farm owners here:

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