An Illinois federal court has sentenced the former president of a Wisconsin cheese company to five days in jail, one year of probation and a $750,000 fine for lying to U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspectors about Queso Cincho de Guerrero cheese imported from Mexico and tainted with E. Coli and Salmonella. U.S. v. Zurita, No. 12-cr-0290 (N.D. Ill., sentence entered May 8, 2015).
In 2007, Mexican Cheese Producers, Inc. reportedly received tainted cheese returned by retailers. Company workers apparently scraped and washed the cheese, and it was later resold. No illnesses related to the cheese were reported, and the government could not show that company owner Miguel Leal had ordered the workers’ actions, but he pled guilty in 2014 to charges of distributing tainted food and lying about it to federal inspectors. Government prosecutors asked for prison time of 10-16 months. “I don’t think I would have put him in custody at all had it not been for deceiving the government,” the judge reportedly said. The company’s finance and operations manager and a worker who admitted to washing the cheese also received sentences of probation. See Law360 and Chicago Sun-Times, May 8, 2015.