State and local health inspectors are teaming up to catch vendors selling illegal bathtub cheese. The homemade cheese is known to be tainted with harmful bacteria.
"There have been several incidents where we have seen it sold at local markets," said Chief Environmental Health Specialist Donna Fenton.
Bathtub cheese is homemade cheese, also known as queso fresco, and is a staple for Hispanic immigrants.
"It's normal there in Mexico. You can make your own thing so you can eat," said fruit market owner George Flores.
The cheese is often made in bathtubs or back yard troughs.
"The cheese has been made in a coffin, or they use PVC pipe just purchased from a local hardware store. Sometimes it's done in galvanized metal containers that can also leach contaminants," said Fenton.
Not only is the cheese unsanitary, but its ingredients can also harbor bacteria. Raw, unpasteurized milk and coagulants used to make the cheese can contain salmonella, E. coli, tuberculosis and listeria.
"Listeria in particular can cause miscarriages in pregnant women," said Fenton.
Yet people still continue to buy the cheese, which can cost $10 to $12 per pound.
"It's not uncommon to find it in the local markets, swap meets, street vendors, or you may have a neighbor who's trying to sell it from their home," said Fenton.
"Yeah, they come once in a while. Not to our business but to our home. In a truck," said Flores.
Bathtub cheese comes in different types, such as panela, queso seco, asadero, queso Oaxaca and Cotija, and is often sold in grocery bags without proper packaging. That's exactly what 23 ABC and inspectors found inside Lopez's Fruit Market: four pounds of what inspectors believe to be bathtub cheese. Flores and his wife were given a citation and the cheese confiscated. ...
"It may look good, appetizing, and you see it sold at the markets. A lot of times it's not safe. It's just not worth the risk of you having a life-threatening illness," said Fenton.
It is a misdemeanor crime to sell or give away bathtub cheese. And it's a felony if you make it to sell or give away. ...
via Buyer Beware of 'Bathtub' Cheese - East Bakersfield News Story - KERO Bakersfield.