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Jan 19, 2012 3:05 PM by Paul Kavanaugh

Owner of farm where listeria outbreak originated faces labor charges

The owner of the southeastern Colorado farm where the listeria outbreak was pinpointed last year faces new charges from the U.S. Department of Labor.

The departrments Wage and Hour Division has fined cantaloupe grower Eric Jensen, who owns and operates Jensen Farms in Holly, $4,250 in civil money penalties for failing to provide migrant worker housing that meets the safety and health requirements of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act.

Jensen rents rooms to migrant workers at a building he owns in Holly called the Gateway Motel, where investigators found overcrowded rooms without beds, windows that did not open, a lack of laundry facilities, a lack of smoke detectors and unsanitary conditions, all in violation of the MSPA. Workers pay Jensen about $25 per week to stay there.

Jensen claimed an exemption from the MSPA regulations as an innkeeper.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said whole cantaloupe grown at Jensen Farms' production fields in Granada, Colo., was identified as the source of a multistate listeria outbreak in 2011.

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