2005_03_health_cheese.jpgThe NYCDOH has released a warning to New Yorkers to avoid some imported Mexican cheeses, specifically those packages of cheese that are not labeled or do not have the word "pasteurized" stated clearly on the label. Contrary to the recent Vioxx mishaps at the drug wing of the FDA, they do perform a valuable function in the food safety area.
Since 2001, 35 people (13 have been children) in NYC have had a documented infection with Mycobacterium bovis. Since 7 of the children were born in the U.S. they should not have had access to unpasteurized dairy products. Every head of cattle in New York state is certified by the USDA to be "bovis free" and only a very small number of dairies in NY are allowed to sell unpasteurized milk on-site to individuals for individual consumption (i.e. not for resale). This prompted an investigation eventually culminating in the likely culprit of illegally imported Mexican cheese. The specific Mexican cheeses, including queso fresco, may be unpasteurized and contaminated with Mycobacterium bovis which causes tuberculosis.
Mycobacterium infection can be deadly and anyone experiencing symptoms of coughing that lasts three weeks or longer, fever or chills, night sweats, loss of appetite and weight loss should contact their physician or call the ubiquitous 311. And next time Martha's new recipe calls for unpasteurized Mexican queso fresco, just think, she might be trying to get back at the society that threw her in the pen.