Jalisco Mexican Products Inc., its president and one other company official were named in 60 misdemeanor criminal counts today following an investigation into a cheese-linked disease epidemic that killed dozens of people last year.
The charges were all misdemeanor counts, "none of which are directly related to any of the deaths," said Roger Rosen, lawyer for the now-defunct cheese-making company and for Jalisco President Gary McPherson. Jose Luis Medina, in charge of pasteurizing operations at Jalisco, was named in 12 of the 60 counts.
Rosen explained that while ingestion of the cheese made by Jalisco caused the 39 or more deaths health officials blamed on listeriosis, investigators never showed that Jalisco was the source of the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria that health officials said tainted the cheese.
Jalisco and McPherson each were charged with 19 counts for manufacture and sale of adulterated food; 19 counts for sale and delivery of adulterated milk products; nine counts of making and selling cheese with cottonseed oil, an illegal ingredient; five counts for possesion of unpasteurized cheese; and eight counts for other violations of state agricultural, health and safety codes.
"We could not state with certainty, nor prove beyond reasonable doubt, that any of these violations caused the Listeria contamiantion in the cheese," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Cliff Klein. He said the laws prosecutors contend were violated "exist to prevent contamination of cheese such as occurred in this case."
Klein said each of the charges carries a maximum term of 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.