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Illegal cheese operations busted in IE

June 23, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Do you know where your cheese comes from? Investigators in the Inland Empire say they have busted an illegal cheese-processing operation. Deputies raided and arrested suspects at locations in Eastvale and Home Gardens.Authorities say illegal cheese was dangerously close to entering the food supply. Pictures taken by Sheriff's deputies show how the cheese was stored. In some cases, it was covered with flies.

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Two busts over the weekend in Home Gardens and Eastvale netted more than 150 pounds of illegally processed cheese.

There are now three suspects behind bars, but there is still a warning from deputies who say they have no idea how much more of this cheese is in the food supply.

"It can be fatal. As you know, salmonella can be deadly. And some people have died from it," said Sgt. Dennis Gutierrez, Riverside County Sheriff's Dept.

A block of cheese at the grocery store should be properly packaged and approved by the Food and Drug Administration. But the production of illegally processed cheese in Riverside County is on the rise.

"We've had this huge problem for the last couple of years here in Riverside County where people are selling illegal food items," said Sgt. Gutierrez. "In this case, it's cheese. We know that this cheese is manufactured in people's bathtubs. First of all, we don't even know the conditions for the cleaning of that."

Authorities suspect the cheese wasn't distributed in major supermarkets, but sold by small vendors, vendors without proper permits.

Eyewitness News caught up with one vendor in downtown Riverside who has all the proper permits; she said proper permitting is essential.

"People get sick. And not only that, we have to pay our fees and everything to be able to do the business," said Riverside street vendor Jean Haas.

Sheriff's deputies said they will continue to conduct these types of stings, and continue to try to keep this kind of food from being sold.

 

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