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Beware the Bad Cheese... Don't be a Dairy Dummy
Know your cheese! Photo by foodistablog/Flickr
Utensils down, chefs! Do you know where that cheese was made? If you don't, you could be cooking with what the Los Angeles County Health Officer calls "a recipe for disaster," and that has zero to do with your culinary prowess. A press release issued by the county's Department of Public Health is warning consumers about dairy products, particularly "Latin American-style soft cheese and sour cream, purchased from unlicensed manufacturers or vendors," because they may be full of contaminants.Buyer beware--the list of dairy products typically sold by unlicensed manufacturers include: Queso Fresco, Panela, Queso Seco, Asadero, Queso Oaxaca, Queso Cotija, and
Crema. These products are made of raw milk and could be potentially harmful to your health. The CDC breaks down the dangers of unpasteurized dairy on their site.
But before you think this warning takes the "fun" out of your Queso Fundido, the Public Heath folks want to remind you of some common sense food practices, like making sure the package is sealed, has a complete label and is kept in the refrigerated section of the market. Also, "Do not purchase cheese from unlicensed manufacturers, unlicensed vendors at swap meets, door-to-door vendors, or on the street," they caution consumers.
Many people, however, safely incorporate raw dairy into their diets, and encourage those interested in doing a bit more digging on the matter to understand the larger picture of food safety, and the baseline issue of any dairy's origin--not the pasteurizer, but the cows themselves. You are able to purchase raw milk in many places, and you can even make your own raw yogurt and cheese at home. Check here for a list of raw milk sources in California.