Handcrafted fresh cheeses are popular among consumers in Mexico. However, unsafe raw materials and inadequate food safety practices during cheese manufacture and preservation make them a potential public health risk. The incidence of Salmonella, Listeria, Escherichia coli O157:H7, and staphylococcal enterotoxin was analyzed in two types of fresh cheese (panela and adobera) commonly marketed in Mexico. A total of 200 samples, 100 panela and 100 adobera, were acquired from 100 wholesale milk product distributors who supply small retailers in the Guadalajara metropolitan area, Jalisco State, Mexico. Pathogens were identified using culture and immunoassay (miniVidas) methods. The presence of staphylococcal enterotoxin was determined by an immunoassay method. Of the 200 analyzed samples, 92 were positive for at least one of the pathogens. The incidence in the panela samples was 56%: 34% Salmonella, 16% E. coli O157:H7, and 6% L. monocytogenes. In the adobera samples, incidence was 36%: 20% Salmonella, 4% E. coli O157:H7, and 12% L. monocytogenes. Staphylococcal enterotoxin was not detected in any of the 200 samples. Choice of technique had no effect on detection of pathogen incidence, although the immunoassay method identified more Salmonella serotypes than the culture method. Handcrafted panela and adobera fresh cheeses in Mexico frequently contain pathogenic bacteria and therefore pose a public health risk.

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