Monday, January 07, 2008

Felony Cheese

Now I don’t want to be accused of advocating food poisoning but part of me keeps wondering how our ancestors managed to feed themselves without government oversight. Is it wrong to be more concerned about the growing powers of the food police than the exploits of small time food ... 'criminals'?

'Bathtub cheese' sting snares two: San Bernardino County prosecutors have filed criminal charges against a man and woman suspected of producing and selling illegal homemade cheese, some of which was contaminated with a harmful bacteria. Authorities say Floribel Hernandez Cuenca, 31, and Manuel Martin Sanchez-Garrido, 44, manufactured the so-called "bathtub cheese" inside a home in Montclair, and then sold it in an open-air market outside a Chino meat-processing facility.

At least some of the cheese confiscated by authorities was tainted with salmonella, a bacteria known to cause illness, Deputy District Attorney Jeremy Carrasco said. "I think that the possibility that somebody could become sick is increased when people start manufacturing and selling cheese products out of their home," Carrasco said.

Cuenca and Sanchez-Garrido are each charged with a felony count of processing unpasteurized milk products and a misdemeanor count of selling illegal milk products, both violations of the state's Food and Agriculture Code. The pair is to be arraigned Jan. 24 in Chino Superior Court.

Carrasco said an undercover police officer bought a round of cheese for $13 from Sanchez-Garrido on Oct. 20 at the market in the 7300 block of Pine Avenue. Sanchez-Garrido then led police to Cuenca, who took officers to a Montclair home where the cheese was being produced, Carrasco said. Authorities seized some 375 pounds of illegal cheese, included panela, queso fresco and queso Oaxaca varieties, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Prosecutors filed charges against the pair last week.

The felony carries a maximum penalty of a $10,000 fine and a year in jail.

Hey Amigo, what you in for? Oh man, they busted me with 40 kilos of queso fresco in the bathtub. The dude offered me $13 cash. How was I to know he was an undercover special operative?