Public health authorities estimate 2,000 people in Utah may have been infected with Salmonella over the past two years by eating soft cheese made from raw milk by an unauthorized food producer, the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News reported Thursday.
According to the news reports, the queso fresco was homemade by a man called “Mr. Cheese,” who supplied it to Salt Lake City delis or restaurants. Officials have not released the man’s name.
An investigation was launched in 2009 after people began to get sick with Salmonella Newport. Since then, health department officials have confirmed about 40 cases of Salmonella Newport linked to raw milk cheese, but believe as many as 2,000 Utahns in six counties may actually have been affected, Dr. Royal DeLegge, director of Salt Lake Valley Health Department’s Environmental Health Division, told the Deseret News.
After a samples of queso fresco collected at a restaurant were tested and resulted in a positive DNA match with the outbreak strain, the owner identified his queso fresco source from a photo lineup, and called him “Mr. Cheese.”
Investigators from the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food found the man’s cheese-making operation at his Salt Lake City home.