Six in court over Listeria deaths
Six people from the Hartberg company Prolactal are in court in Graz, Styria, after the deaths of seven people four years ago from eating contaminated cheese.
The prosecution accuses the defendants of being responsible for the seven deaths, as well as causing serious bodily harm to others who ate the cheese in 2009 and 2010.
More than 34 people were infected after eating the traditional curd cheese known as Quargel.
The hearing is scheduled to take place over several days.
The accused are alleged to have “negligently caused danger to life and limb of a large number of people by allowing misconduct to take place in the cheese processing plant at Hartberg, which meant that cheese was contaminated with Listeria and made its way to a variety of consumers.”
Alongside the manager of Prolactal, four former senior exectives, and the head of an external laboratory are also in the dock.
The prosecutor's office said that the cheese production line should have been shut down in 2009 as the “Listeria problem was by this time uncontrollable.”
The managing director of the external laboratory, which carried out microbiological tests for Prolactal and also acted as an external consultant, is accused of "having partial knowledge of care violations within the company", and of not informing his client about them.
Cleanliness in cheese production is vital to avoid Listeria outbreaks.