LOS ANGELES, Calif.–The owner of a Venice market and two other people were arrested on charges stemming from the alleged illegal production and sale of unpasteurized goat milk, goat cheese and other products.
James Cecil Stewart, who runs the Venice market Rawesome, is set to be arraigned Thursday in downtown Los Angeles, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Stewart, 64, is charged with 13 counts, including conspiracy to commit a crime, processing milk without pasteurization, unlicensed business, food facility without a permit, improperly labeled food and removal of closure notice.
Prosecutors allege that Rawesome has been in operation for more than six years, but has never had any type of business permit or license.
Santa Paula-based Healthy Family Farms and its owner, Sharon Ann Palmer, 51, are charged with nine counts, including conspiracy to commit a crime and unlicensed business. One of Palmer’s employees, Eugenie Victoria Bloch, 58, is charged with three counts of conspiracy to commit a crime.
Undercover investigators made purchases of unpasteurized dairy products, including unpasteurized goat milk, cheese, yogurt and kefir, from Healthy Family Farms stands at farmers markets in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties and at Rawesome during the yearlong investigation, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
It is legal to manufacture and sell unpasteurized dairy products in California, but applicable licenses and permits are required that include regular veterinary inspections of the animals and obeying equipment and sanitation requirements, officials said.
The investigation included representatives from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the California Franchise Tax Board, the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Milk and Dairy Food Safety Branch and the department’s Division of Measurement Standards, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, the Los Angeles and Ventura county departments of public health, the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles Department of
Building and Safety and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.