California health officials issued a warning Thursday about the dangers of eating illegally manufactured Mexican-style soft cheeses, which are often sold by street vendors, because of a “dramatic increase” in Salmonella infections since late 2015.


At least 50 people have been confirmed with three different strains of Salmonella since November, according to a statement from Dr. Karen Smith, state public health officer and director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

“These cheeses are often made with raw, unpasteurized milk and under unsanitary conditions. We are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of reported Salmonella cases, particularly in the Hispanic community,” Smith said in the warning notice.

An investigation into the Salmonella cases is ongoing, but several patients said they ate Mexican-style cheese purchased from street vendors before they became ill.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection include fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea that may be bloody, according to the warning. While most people recover in four to seven days without medical intervention, some may develop complications that require hospitalization. Infants, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are at highest risk for more severe illness. CDPH recommends that consumers experiencing any ill effects after consuming soft cheeses consult their health care providers.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) recommends only purchasing cheeses that are made by licensed manufacturers and kept in refrigerated cases at retail stores.

More safety information is available through CDFA’s, “Illegal Cheese Can Make You Sick!” campaign in both English and Spanish.

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