Consumers warned against potential health risks
SACRAMENTO – Multiple investigations by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) have revealed unlicensed cheese manufacturing operations in Northern and Southern California. Illegally produced cheese, sometimes called “bathtub” cheese, poses a health threat to California consumers because unlicensed producers often use raw milk.
In Napa County, CDFA found 30 pounds of illegally produced soft cheese. One person was cited for the alleged unlawful manufacture and sale of cheese. In Corona, CDFA investigations led to the arrest of four people: two were arrested for allegedly offering 30 gallons of raw milk for sale and two were arrested for selling unlicensed soft cheese. One of those arrested is currently on probation for the same offense. CDFA is testing the cheese and the milk for the presence of potentially harmful bacteria.
Investigators also found irregularities with cattle for sale at the Napa County location. Ownership verification is pending for six animals that lacked proper documentation. Those cattle cannot be sold or removed from the property until the ownership is verified.
California consumers are urged to protect their families by avoiding illegally produced food products. Licensed, wholesome soft cheeses and meats are readily available from reputable retailers and specialty stores.
The unlicensed products, often sold at swap meets, flea markets and by door-to-door vendors, may carry a bigger price tag than consumers expect; the risk of severe illness from listeria, salmonella or E.coli. Infants, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are most susceptible. Expectant mothers should be especially guarded, as the listeria organism can cause miscarriages.
CDFA collaborated with several local agencies in the investigations, including the Napa and Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and the Ontario Police Department.
More information about the unlicensed products is available in a video presentation featuring actor Edward J. Olmos. In addition, CDFA is providing food safety brochures in both Spanish and English. The brochures are also available at www.cdfa.ca.gov/ahfss/index.htm.
California Department of Food and Agriculture Office of Public Affairs
1220 N St., Ste. 214, Sacramento, CA 95814