Food Safety News reports that twelve people in Minnesota have fallen ill with Salmonella poisoning after eating unpasteurized, homemade queso fresco, a Mexican-style cheese, according to a joint statement released by the state departments of health and agriculture, and the City of Minneapolis.
At least eight patients were hospitalized after eating the product, and another two were hospitalized from secondary infections after contact with infected individuals. All of those patients have since recovered.
The cases are connected to an individual who distributed the product from their home, as well as making home deliveries and possibly selling the product on a street corner near the East Lake Street area of Minneapolis.
Here is some information on Fresh Cheese Made Safely by Washington State University Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. Queso fresco has been made for generations. Traditionally, queso fresco is made using fresh dairy milk that has not been heat-treated or pasteurized. Using unpasteurized milk to make queso fresco can lead to serious illness.
HEAT TREATMENT OF FRESH UNPASTEURIZED MILK
To kill bacteria in milk heat milk to 145°F for 30 minutes
- Place a cooking thermometer into the milk to measure its temperature.
- Do not heat milk over 145°F. It may change the texture and flavor of the cheese. Under 145°F will not kill all harmful bacteria.
To help prevent infection:
- Boil all cheese making equipment between uses, or Soak all cheese making equipment in a bleach-water solution.
- For best quality cheese, use new cheesecloth each time you make cheese. (Reuse cheesecloth only if it has been washed, then boiled or soaked 2 minutes in bleach-water.)
- Make a bleach-water solution by adding one tablespoon of bleach to one gallon of water.
- Make a new bleach water solution each time you make cheese.
- This recipe for bleach water can be doubled if necessary.
SAFE QUESO FRESCO RECIPE
- Place one tablet Junket Rennett into one-half cup cold tap water until dissolved.
- Mix one quart cultured buttermilk with two quarts heat-treated or pasteurized milk.
- Add 7 teaspoons white vinegar to the milk mixture.
- Mix well.
- Heat milk to 90° F. Remove pan from the heat.
- Add dissolved rennet and mix for about 2 minutes.
- Let stand for 30-40 minutes until curd is firm.
- Cut curd into 1-inch cubes and let stand for about 5 minutes.
- Heat curds and whey to 115° F (without stirring), remove pan from the heat, then let stand for 5 minutes.
- Pour mix through a colander lined with cheesecloth and allow to drain for 5 minutes.
- Form curd into a ball and twist the cheesecloth gently to squeeze out the whey.
- Break up curds into a bowl and add l and 3/4 teaspoons of salt.
- Mix in salt and let stand for 5 minutes, then squeeze again as before.
- Form the cheese. Remove from form. Refrigerate.
SALE OF QUESO FRESCO
If you are interested in becoming licensed to sell queso fresco, please contact your local health department or state department of agriculture.