October 24, 2011
Congress is taking a closer look at the catastrophic 26-state Listeria outbreak tied to tainted cantaloupes. The House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter Friday to Jensen Farms, the Colorado farm linked to the deadliest outbreak in 25 years, requesting a staff briefing.
"The Committee has a long bipartisan history of conducting food safety oversight and is very concerned about these recent developments," wrote committee leaders. "We intend to learn more from the FDA, CDC, Jensen Farms, and others who may provide insight into the causes of this outbreak and the prevention of future outbreaks."
The letter comes on the heels of FDA's recent report on the outbreak that outlined multiple food safety lapses at Jensen Farms. The agency also issued a warning letter to the company after 13 of 39 environmental samples tested positive for Listeria with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) pattern combinations indistinguishable from three of four strains collected from outbreak patients.
The committee asked that co-owners Ryan and Eric Jensen make arrangements with staff to schedule a briefing, no later than Nov. 3, and preserve all documents "that may be relevant to understanding the reasons for the contamination and distribution of contaminated products."
Committee chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), ranking member Henry Waxman (D-CA), Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations chairman Cliff Stearns (R-FL) and ranking member Diane DeGette (D-CO) signed the letter.