State public health director issues
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Illegally manufactured Mexican-style
cheese can lead to illness such as salmonella
[March 23, 2007]
-- Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, issued a
warning Thursday about the dangers of consuming illegally
manufactured Mexican-style cheeses, such as queso fresco or queso
cotija. The warning came after a sample of Mexican-style cheeses
from a grocery store in Kane County tested positive for salmonella.
The manufacturer of the salmonella-contaminated cheese in Kane
County has not been clearly identified.
"We're concerned that people who
have this illegally manufactured cheese may become sick from
salmonella," Whitaker said. "It is important that people check the
labeling to make sure the product is by licensed manufacturers --
even if you purchase the product from a grocery store. Anyone who
has become ill after eating Mexican-style cheese should contact
their health care provider."
The Illinois Department of Public
Health is working with Kane County and alerted other local health
departments about this illegal, contaminated cheese. The IDPH Food,
Drugs and Dairies Division has advised local health departments to
review the cheeses present in grocery stores in their jurisdiction
and make sure they are from approved sources.
Salmonella is a bacteria that can be found in illegally
manufactured cheese. While the bacteria cannot be detected by sight,
taste or smell, it can cause illness, including fever, abdominal
cramps and diarrhea. Most individuals can recover on their own in
three to five days. The infection can be more severe in young
children, the elderly and those with compromised immune system.
Consumers who are ill with fever and diarrhea should call their
physician. If consumers believe their illness is linked to
Mexican-style cheese, they should contact their local health
department and hold the cheese in case it is needed for testing.
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Outbreaks of salmonella in other states have been associated with
these illegally manufactured cheeses popular in Latino communities.
Consumers are strongly warned against buying or consuming cheese
that is suspected to be made by an unlicensed producer. The Illinois
Department of Public Health recommends that people who have
Mexican-style cheese in their home but cannot clearly identify that
the product was manufactured by a licensed or regulated manufacturer
should not eat the cheese.
Legitimate, wholesome Mexican-style cheeses are available in the
refrigerated case at retail stores and authenticated by label
information specifying the legal name of the product, name and
address of the distributor or processor, quantity of contents, an
ingredient statement, and nutrition facts (in most cases).
Mexican-style cheeses purchased from a deli and packaged at the
time of sale are required to be labeled with the common or usual
name of the product and the name and address of the manufacturer,
packer or distributor. The product is then weighed and priced at the
time of sale. Nutrition facts and other information required for
packaged cheese must be available upon request.
The Illinois Department of Public Health encourages consumers to
always purchase milk and dairy products made by licensed
For more information about salmonella, visit
Department of Public Health news release received from the
Illinois Office of Communication and Information]