24-mother-earth-nature-art.jpgKaren Robinson-Jacobs of the Dallas Morning News jumped into the Listeria Cantaloupe case today with her story: Texas shipper in cantaloupe listeria case says it has no bankruptcy plans.

I spoke to Ms. Robinson-Jacobs about the impact of the bankruptcy of the grower of the Listeria-tainted cantaloupes:

A central issue in the case will be how much money is available to pay claims that are likely to exceed $70 million, said attorney Bill Marler, who filed suit in the Dallas County case and represents 39 victims or their families.

“The value of these claims far exceeds what minimal insurance Jensen Farms has,” said Marler. “My clients alone have $7.5 million in medical claims.

“The insurance is badly underfunded, maybe by a factor of 50.”

He said victims eventually may file claims against retailers such as Wal-Mart and Kroger. “There’s enough blame to go around,” he said.

However, what shocked me was this quote attributable to one of Jensen Farm’s owners:

Eric Jensen, the fourth-generation produce grower who runs what’s left of Jensen Farms with his brother Ryan, said the future of the company remains cloudy.

Jensen, 36, attributed the outbreak to “something Mother Nature did.”

“We didn’t have anything to do with it,” he said.

Eric, Mother Nature did not cause this, your farm and an inspection, distribution and retail system run amok caused the 146 illnesses with 36 deaths.  I think you should read the facts found by the FDA and your own testimony before Congressional investigators.  Eric, I would be careful, the statute of limitations in criminal cases last longer than your bankruptcy.  Blaming Mother Nature is not a defense.

  • Unfortunately, the first time farmers are linked to an outbreak you often hear “something Mother Nature did.” The farmers often point out that they have been in business for X years or Y generations and never have had a problem. They often forget they recently added cattle to a pasture up the hill from their irrigation pond last year or the subdivision went in next to the farm, etc.
    When I was in college 30 years ago, the educational process in agricultural schools stressed was on production so what was taught seed genetic, irrigation, soil, fertilizers, pesticides & other environmental factors that affected growth but discussion of the microbiologic quality of water is not discussed, the potential contamination by wildlife or people wasn’t discussed. It was production and protection from damage, trying to get as much to market as possible. Hopefully, college cit has changed So, I understand where these folks are coming from since they probably had the same educational experience that I did.

  • Margaret

    Mr. Marler,
    I couldn’t have said it better !
    Indeed, Mother Nature is no defense here.

  • domenic

    An interesting twist on the defence of “The butler did it!” Mother Nature won’t be pleased!

  • Kathleen Buchanan

    When I hear people mention “mother nature” I think of that as a part of God’s grand design… I do believe that God had a plan for my mother’s life but we will never know what that would have been or how the rest of her years would have unfolded because God’s plan was interrupted when she ate carelessly harvested and shipped cantaloupe from Jensen Farms. Shame on the Jensen brothers for not admitting their discovered, documented, idiotic mistakes.

  • Paul F Schwarz

    What the hell did Eric Jensen think happened? Did he not read the damning report from congress or the CDC? Is this some strategy or strategery? My father ate listeria tainted cantaloupe that was traced back to Jensen Farms that eventually lead to his death on the 18th of December. Eric Jensen shifting the blame may make him feel good, but his sloppiness led to 36 deaths and 146 that were sickened. This shows the callous disregard that Eric Jensen has for human life! I will bet that little Eric used to tell the teacher that the ‘dog ate my homework’!
    Bill, I join you in saying BULLSHIT!!!
    Paul A Schwarz
    Section 51 Row 1 Grave 3 Ft Leavenworth/Leavenworth National Cemetery

  • Dalpay

    While omissions to FDA guidelines may have been contributory to this tragedy there is an even more pressing public remedy. Could any of these deaths been prevented, through availability of healthcare systems in place at the time of the incident? Could any of the deaths been avoided by timely intervention? Or was this a case of personal neglect,brought on by a lack of personal insurance?

    Thousands of people spontaneously recover from food poisoning every day. Usually a medical consult is preformed in a timely manner to rule out suspicious symptoms. Wishful thinking on the part of the afflicted (who has no insurance), may be contributory to prolonged elapse of symptom to treatment. In the case of pathogenic organisms, this elapsed time may be the contributing forensic factor.

    With the emergence of the “Raw Foods” phenomenon, the proper handling of farm produce is all but non-existent. While grandparents may be aware of the sanitation procedures associated with canning vegetables, the present day vegetarian is not. Normally health foods are being improperly handled in personal vehicles, and cross-contaminate by (eco-fiendly) reusable grocery bags. Where is the Caveat Emptor?

    What is the answer to social services (medical benefits Medicaid/Medicare) being liberally squandered in dense population centers and non-existent in rural America?