A salmonella outbreak that recently sickened at least 25 Minnesotans has been linked to a Mexican-style cheese made locally from raw milk.
The outbreak, which was first reported in April, sent 15 people to the hospital, the Minnesota Department of Health said Monday. All have since recovered.
Investigators say many of those who fell ill had eaten an unpasteurized cheese known as queso fresco, made by an individual in a private home. The product was delivered to customers’ homes and may have been sold on a street corner near E. Lake Street in Minneapolis, the Health Department said.
On Monday, the department said that all the known cases occurred from March 28 to April 24, and that the outbreak may be over. But it issued a warning that anyone who bought or received the product should throw it away.
Officials said they still may learn of unreported cases from people who ate the cheese before the investigation began in late April.
The outbreak was traced to contaminated cheese samples that were made with milk purchased from an unidentified farm in Dakota County. Investigators found the identical strain of salmonella in unpasteurized milk at the farm, the Health Department said in a statement released Monday.
“It only takes a few bacteria to cause illness,” said Dr. Heidi Kassenborg, head of dairy and food inspection for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. “Even the cleanest dairy farms can have milk that is contaminated. That’s why pasteurization — or the heat treatment of milk to kill the harmful pathogens — is so important.”
Salmonella can cause diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain, usually within 12 to 72 hours of eating contaminated food.
Although consumers may legally buy raw milk for their own consumption, it’s against the law for them to redistribute or sell it, the Health Department said.
In all, 18 salmonella cases were confirmed by lab tests, and seven additional cases were reported among patients’ family members.