Miscellaneous – Justice | Cheesemaker under investigation after ten listeria deaths

Swiss justice is investigating a cheese maker whose products infested with listeria have killed ten people since 2018 and made 24 other sick, authorities said Thursday.

This investigation follows a criminal complaint filed in July by the intercantonal chemist against the cheese maker based in the canton of Schwyz, in central Switzerland, which is now closed. According to the complaint, “ten of the 34 people who fell ill died,” said the prosecutor of the region of Innerschwyz, Franziska Steiner. Following the complaint, “criminal proceedings in connection with the listeria infestation in the products” of the cheese factory were opened, she added.

The regional prosecution, in collaboration with the cantonal police of Schwyz, is now investigating whether the cheese maker is “responsible” for the deaths and “if he has violated the law on foodstuffs,” she detailed, stressing that the presumption of innocence applies.

Contaminated brie

Between March and May, four patients from the Valais Romand Hospital Center in Sion were infected after consuming a cheese from Schwyz, Swiss newspapers revealed in early May. One of the patients, suffering from a severe form of cancer, has died, according to the Swiss news agency ATS.

According to this same source, the offending cheese is brie. In early May, the cheese dairy informed its customers after discovering listeria in its products. The cheese dairy also alerted the Federal Office for Food Safety and Veterinary Affairs, which issued a warning to consumers.

Listeria can survive for weeks in cold temperatures, with refrigerators providing an environment conducive to its survival. This bacterium can cause complications in the most fragile: young children, the elderly, patients with low immune defenses, pregnant women. A person can become ill for up to two months after consuming a contaminated product. The most obvious symptoms are fever and muscle pain.

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