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Toxic brie alleged to have caused up to ten deaths

cheese production
Keystone / Laurent Gillieron

A criminal case has been opened against a cheesemaker in central Switzerland following a series of deaths linked to listeria poisoning.

The cheesemaker is suspected of negligent homicide and bodily injury as well as contravening the Federal Act on Foodstuffs, the Attorney General of canton Schwyz said on Thursday.

Brie cheese infected by the listeria pathogen was allegedly sold over a period of two years by the producer, who has since shut down.

The cheesemaker raised the alarm back in May, when it advised clients to no longer sell the product. It also informed the Federal Food Safety Office.

Federal-mandated analysis then established a link between the cheese and a spate of illnesses going back to 2018, the Schwyz Attorney General’s office said. Some 34 cases over two years were noted, with ten of these 34 patients dying.

This includes four patients at the Valais Hospital in Sion who became infected after eating the cheese between March and May this year. One of the patients, who had a serious form of cancer, died.

Listeria, a food-borne bacteria, is particularly dangerous to those with weak immune systems and to pregnant women and newborns. Those with strong immune systems are rarely seriously affected.

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