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Mexican cheese could carry health alert

August 18, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Before you eat certain Mexican style cheeses check the label -- you could get sick.The director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health is warning consumers about eating certain types of cheese. Specifically: Mexican style cheese often known as "queso fresco" because they could contain dangerous contaminants, and cause serious disease.

Summer heat is a perfect breeding ground for these food borne illnesses.

He's talking about illnesses from bacteria such as Listeria, salmonella, and E.coli because often these products contain unpasteurized milk.

And the symptoms these bacteria cause can be quite severe, they include: fever, diarrhea, stomach cramps and headache.

Traditionally, these cheeses are made by heating raw milk and allowing the cheese bacteria to multiply. Most have a very short shelf life. And if you're buying these cheeses in a grocery store, experts say you probably won't have a problem, because they are made with pasteurized milk.

But that's part of the reason for today's warning: Dr. Fielding wants to encourage people to read the labels and check the cheese.

Cotija, known as the Parmesan of Mexico, is sprinkled over tacos, enchiladas and other dishes. Dairy products commonly sold by unlicensed vendors include: queso fresco, queso panela, queso seco, queso cotija, Crema Mexicana and Asadero.

While this isn't an FDA recall, there have been recalls on these types of cheese in the recent past. So if you want to make sure the cheese your eating is safe, check the ingredient list to make sure the cheese says pasteurized on the label.

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