County health officials are again warning people not to buy or eat illegal cheese that has been sold at swap meets, out of the backs of cars and trucks, on street corners and even door to door, reports Gig Conaughton.
Last July, county officials warned people to stay away from illegal, so-called, "bathtub" cheeses, that have been known to be made in bathtubs, homemade wooden vats and rusted cheese molds. Illegally made cheeses are often made with raw, unpasteurized milk that can cause people to become very ill if they eat it.
In July, health officials said summertime was the main time they had problems with the illegal cheese market because the number of street vendors increases when the weather warms up. But this week, county officials said they have been investigating an increasing number of reported illnesses that had been positively linked to a salmonella bacteria found in confiscated, illegally produced cheeses.
The cheese is referred to as "queso fresco". Queso fresco literally means "fresh cheese" and is a soft, white cheese that has a mild salty flavor. There are queso fresco cheeses made by licensed manufacturers and sold in stores. Those cheeses are safe, health officials said, but cheese that is made illegally, and often sold door to door or at informal markets, can make people very sick.