The old time matinee movies used to paint a one dimensional portrait of cops and robbers. The ‘bad guy’ was always guilty and the hero was always unmitigatedly good. Elliot Ness, or those like him, could be seen on the big screen fighting the evil villains. Moving forward from the old time movies, the moral ambiguity of the law enforcement officials began to be highlighted, as well as the possibility that the ‘The Fugitive’ that they were hunting was not so guilty after all.

Unfortunately it seems like some still view the real world through the black and white moral lens of the nickel matinees. This week, federal criminal charges were brought against a New Jersey cheese maker for allegedly causing the interstate shipment of adulterated ricotta cheese.

Your first reaction might be that there is more to these federal charges than meets the eye, that in order for the prosecutors to literally make a federal case of this, they must have been smuggling drugs or guns inside wheels of cheese. No, the alleged conduct involved one shipment of cheese to a single customer about three years ago, in which the milk used to make the cheese is alleged to have a higher concentration of antibiotics than is accepted under federal regulations.

It should be noted that there is ambiguity as to whether the increased level of antibiotics has any effect on the cheese. The antibiotics may be burned off or dissipated in the cheese making process itself.

So while on movie screen you can probably find Bruce Willis jumping out of an exploding helicopter to nab a bag guy, in the real world it seems that at least some federal prosecutors are examining deliveries of ricotta cheese from 2008.

Source: Hunterdon County Democrat, “Lebanon Cheese Co. attorney downplays federal charges over ricotta,” Terry Wright, March 13, 2012