ABSTRACT

Fresh cheeses and cream are important garnishes of traditional Mexican food, often purchased at street or itinerant open markets or tianguis. However, there is scarce information regarding the microbiological quality of cheeses and cream sold in tianguis. For 2 years, three dairy stalls from three tianguis in Mexico City were visited once each season, trading practices were registered, and 96 dairy products were purchased. In total 72 fresh pasteurized cheeses that were hand-cut to order (24 Panela, 24 Canasto, and 24 Doble Crema) and 24 unpasteurized Crema de Rancho samples were collected. All dairy products remained without refrigeration for 8 h. Based on the National Guidelines limits, 87.5% of cheeses and 8% of Crema de Rancho samples were of low microbiological quality, and 1 sample of each type of cheese and 3 samples of Crema de Rancho exceeded the guidelines limits for Staphylococcus aureus. All dairy products were negative for Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, and all diarrheagenic Escherichia coli pathotypes, including Shiga toxin–producing E. coli. Among the 96 dairy samples, the prevalence of uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC) and of mycobacteria strains were determined because food items contaminated with these strains have been associated with urinary tract infections and mycobacteriosis, respectively. UPEC strains were isolated from 43% of cut-to-order cheeses and 29% of Crema de Rancho samples. Nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) strains were identified in 12.5% of Doble Crema cheese samples and 21% of Crema de Rancho samples. From the eight NTM-positive samples, 10 strains were identified (3 strains of Mycolicibacterium fortuitum, 2 of Mycobacteroides abscessus, 2 of Mycobacteroides chelonae, 2 of Mycolicibacterium porcinum, and 1 of Mycolicibacterium rhodesiae). All produced biofilms, and 70% had sliding motility (both virulence traits). Trading practices of cut-to-order pasteurized cheeses and unpasteurized Crema de Rancho in tianguis increase the risk of microbiological contamination of these products, including with human pathogens, and their consumption may cause human illness.

HIGHLIGHTS
  • The microbiological quality of cut-to-order cheeses and cream was assessed.

  • The presence of foodborne pathogens in cheeses and cream was evaluated.

  • Most cheese samples had low microbiological quality.

  • Some cheese and cream samples harbored S. aureus and uropathogenic E. coli strains.

  • NTM with virulence traits were identified in some dairy products.

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