For additional information, see "Wal-Mart says Primus, others should pay in listeria case" AND "Victims settle with Wal-mart in cantaloupe listeria cases"

Kroger sues Primus in Jensen cantaloupe listeria caseThe Kroger Co. contends Primus Group Inc. has primary liability in the 2011 listeria outbreak traced to cantaloupe from Jensen Farms.

In a cross claim filed June 2 in a Colorado state court, the country’s second largest retailer names Primus and distributor Frontera Produce Ltd. as defendants in the death of a Colorado man who contracted a listeria monocytogenes infection after eating cantaloupe from the Holly, Colo.

“Primus misrepresented the conditions and practices at Jensen Farms ranchlands and packinghouse by giving it a superior rating and high score despite the existence of conditions and practices that should have caused a failure of the facility,” according to Kroger’s claim.

Primus has 30 days to respond, but the food safety auditing company has maintained its lack of liability in dozens of cases filed by victims and relatives and in a federal case filed by brothers Eric and Ryan Jensen, owners of the bankrupt cantaloupe operation.

The 2011 listeria monocytogenes outbreak traced to the Jensens’ cantaloupe resulted in 33 deaths and another 147 illnesses across 28 states, according to the Centers for Disease control and Prevention.

The Jensen brothers each pleaded guilty in January to six federal criminal misdemeanors and are each serving six months home detention to be followed by five years’ probation.

An investigation by the Food and Drug Administration found multiple food safety problems — including listeria contamination — at the Jensen packing facility. The agency also noted that its guidance on how to harvest and handle cantaloupe was not being followed at Jensen Farms.

In its claim, Kroger and subsidiary Dillons contend that Primus should have known retailers would rely on the 96% superior audit rating given to the Jensens’ operation as meaning their cantaloupe were safe to eat.

For the retailer, the superior audit score meant that Primus “ensured the facilities, premises, and procedures used by Jensen Farms in the production of cantaloupes met or exceeded applicable standards of care related to the production of cantaloupe, including but not limited to good agricultural and manufacturing practices, industry standards and relevant FDA industry guidance,” according to Kroger’s claim.