Arrests drain bathtub cheese sellers

October 24, 2007 5:19pm
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•  375 pounds of illegal cheese seized

•  ‘A significant find’

A Southern California couple is facing criminal charges after allegedly being caught with 375 pounds of “bathtub” cheese at an open-air market in San Bernardino County, the California Department of Food and Agriculture says.

The illegal soft cheese products are known to cause serious illness such as listeria, salmonella or E. coli.

Floribel Hernandez Cuenca, 29, and Manuel Martin Sanchez Garrido, 44, of Montclair, were arrested for selling a variety of unlicensed cheeses to the public. Ms. Cuenca was also arrested on felony cheese making charges.

The 375 pounds of seized illegal cheese included panela, queso fresco and queso oxaca varieties, the CDFA says. It was a significant find, the department says.

“Illegally produced is cheese is serious threat to public health,” says CDFA Secretary A.G. Kawamura.

Unlicensed products may carry a bigger price tag than consumers expect: the risk of severe illness, the state says.

Infants, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are the most susceptible. Expectant mothers should be especially guarded, as the listeria organism can cause miscarriages.

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Comments on this story

Sharon 10/25/07 10:28 AM (
Bathtubs are for but and not making cheese

Bill Jones 10/27/07 7:03 AM
Just doing jobs Americans won't do.

Blessed are the Cheesemakers 10/27/07 9:46 AM
I wonder what the risk actually is, though. We're told that buying pharmaceuticals through Canada carries a risk too but many believe it's actually a way to protect the big drug companies via scare tactics. French cheese regulations are a lot less stringent then we have here and importing certain French cheeses is thus prohibited in this country. Is life less precious in Old Europe?

Brian Rakita 10/27/07 12:51 PM
The article states: "The illegal soft cheese products are known to cause serious illness such as listeria, salmonella or E. coli." The truth is, these problems are much more likely to occur from lage scale, inspected operations. Would somebody please point out the last time an e. coli, salmonila, or lestiria outbreak has been traced to ANY small producer, licenced or unlicenced.

dmikulec 10/27/07 1:09 PM
I have to agree with the above poster, and say that the only reason this is being strictly enforced is to protect the multinationals. Homemade cheese exists around the world, tastes better, and doesn't have all the chemical crap added to it. This "bust" is much ado about nothing.

TarnFeathers 10/27/07 1:17 PM
This article is a flat out lie. Do some research about cheese making. Oh lord no, if this were actually true France would be as barren as the moon.

Adam Geldersma 10/27/07 1:17 PM
Ewwwww, I like cheese, but not cheese someone made in their used bathtub. I prefer my chese to not have come into contact with someone(s) butt.

Wesley 10/27/07 1:20 PM
Kramer did this on Seinfeld, and there were no problems. What's with all the germophobes?

Ransom 10/27/07 1:26 PM
This is just one symptom of a greater problem. In the coming decades, America is going to have to decide if it's going to a hypermilitarized nanny state, or return to a free nation-one where consenting adults can smoke pot or tobacco, move where and when they want, and (I can't believe this is an issue) making cheese. Freaking *cheese*. For pity's sake, it's JUST CHEESE!! Kawamura can take his "serious threat to public health," and cram it, hard.

Power of Cheese 10/27/07 1:41 PM
I can see health concerns of home made cheese if it was made in an unsterilized environment but what if it was made according to code. the CDFA and USDFA have people that work for the Dairy, Food, and Agriculture industry and get millions per year from such companies. These agencies are really only interested in protecting the interests of this industry such as the Ag farmers than the public. If the Cheese was actually made in an unclean environment than this goes down as a minority of the help that we get from such agencies.

Tom Whipple 10/27/07 1:44 PM
I suspect that the most significant cause of this arrest is the word 'unlicensed.' Cheese isn't made in the bathtub, and these particular cheeses are pretty easy to make. I do think that inspections of their facilities are in order, but if the cheeses came out tasting right I think it unlikely that there were other bacteria involved besides the ones that were supposed to be involved. If your cheese goes bad you know it.

Brian Rakita 10/27/07 2:04 PM
Adam said: "Ewwwww, I like cheese, but not cheese someone made in their used bathtub. I prefer my chese to not have come into contact with someone(s) butt." I would bet dollars to cents that the word "bathtub" in this case is used as a synonym for "home made" and has nothing to do with cheese production in a bathing facility.

Koshka 10/27/07 2:05 PM
The most radical thing you can do is make food or buy from those who do.

Ursusmeritimus 10/27/07 2:20 PM
"felony cheese making"? who ever heard of such a thing. could there possibily be to many controls and laws, hmmm

Gary 10/27/07 2:48 PM
I've been known to do some pretty nasty cheese cutting, but never cheese making.

Barney Fife 10/27/07 5:07 PM
Great work, men! The last thing we need is Terrorist Cheese invading honest American crackers! This is the kind of law enforcement that made this country great. Now, let's go after those evil kids selling homemade lemonade on the sidewalk, and those dastardly mothers peddling homemade cookies at the Little League snack bar. Buy all your food from national factories or the terrorists win! Can I put my bullet in?

CarolG 10/27/07 6:02 PM
Where is the editor of this joint? Calling this "bathtub" cheese: a little too colorful and stinks of your opinion. Stick to "unlicensed" and you'll be doing the job.

mrGreg 10/27/07 9:19 PM
Used bathtub or not... If I'm not mistaken, "cheese making" is a process that could easily go wrong if harmful bacteria became involved. It's quite a bit different from kids having a lemonade stand.

chuck 10/27/07 9:53 PM
what is wrong with our society today ! 100 years ago millons made cheese this way and was sold and the human race is still here . we are animals and no food is 100% safe no matter what you do to it we are mortal and can die .

Tiger Yorktown 10/28/07 3:41 AM
This is just stupid and a waste of taxpayer's money. Instead of arresting these people they should have just made them aware and required them to get the necessary licenses to make the cheese legally. Now we are going to bust everyone who tries to start a small business on a technicality. The disease excuse by officials is cheesy at best. I guess the next thing they will do is bust every little Kentucky Beer Chjeese maker in Kentucky. This is why so many people are afraid of their government. The very people that are supposed to protect us go to great lengthes to proscecute people for ridiculous crimes - and don't go after the real criminals. When is the last time you were robbed and a policofficer actually took fingerprints? They don't care. No, lets go after home made cheese. Stupid.

nohick 10/28/07 6:15 AM
This is complete bull**** just like every other law that doesn't allow people to produce their own food. You aren't allowed to sell unpasteurized milk either or make your own whiskey in small amounts or grow hemp. It is agribusiness raping the small farmer. It's OK to buy Chinese poisoned foods approved by the same FDA but not OK to buy a small farmer's product. **** the FDA and GWBush.

Al-Yahnai Hawkins 10/28/07 2:58 PM (
Why - because they are mexicans and probably legal immigrants ... if they were illegal immigrants they would have simply put them on welfare and Food Stamps so that they could stop making an honest dollar. I know that PUBLIC SERVANTS came to my home and bull dozed it using a Demolition Order for someone else's property ... and I have not seen a single arrest - but; I have been dragged to court with them using FRAUD and even Forgery to get a conviction against me ... Judge would not allow the Plaintiffs to show any evidence as it would cloud the Fraud with facts ... and I billed them all for over 14 billion u.s. dollars ... Judge ran out of the court room last time I was there and will not even allow my Motions that prove him as a co-conspirator with the 10 (ten) Plaintiffs against me - USING MISAPPROPRIATED PUBLIC FUNDS - TAX PAYERS DOLLARS - from answering to these criminal acts ... I even proved the Offense Charged against me DOES NOT EXIST ... and yet - the PUBLIC SERVANTS who are KNOWN FELONS yet escape ... That is why PUBLIC SERVANTS need to arrest and jail the guys who try to make an honest buck ... honesty is not allowed in Demonocricy ... Suck a cracker you PUBLIC SERVANT bass ***s ...

Another Good Citizen 10/28/07 3:12 PM
This is America, land of the free - so shut the hell up and do what you are told! If the government tells you that non-corporate food is illegal, you can bet that they have a darn good reason for doing so. In fact, I am sure our politicians have been provided with several million good reasons, all in small unmarked bills. This is what democracy looks like when it has been throughly corrupted by corporate interests and large sums of cash. And yeah, the word 'bathtub' is used to help spin the lie. Glad to see fewer and fewer are willing to blindly accept every piece of BS that gets shoved in front of our faces.

Suzanne Leone 10/28/07 3:30 PM (
When it comes to making money it is all fun and games until someone gets hurt, sick, or dies. The sad thing is the money makes DON'T give a rat's ass about health, safety, or humanity, @ the end of the day they just care about the amount of Ben Franklin's in their wallets! Sick bastards!

Carson 10/28/07 6:15 PM
Small manufacturers are careful, have to be. Huge food distribution sysems such as the US' are unable to protect us, and actually function to expose us to pathogens. Hence the showpiece prosecution instead of effective legislation or action.

Brad 10/28/07 6:35 PM
I like cheese. Especially on crackers, or scrambled eggs. :)

Billy 10/28/07 8:14 PM
Ok. forst of all its not made in the bathtub. Second, Ithe "bust" is ridiculous. Sorry Kraft cheese-if someone is moving in on your sales; people shouldnt have to be liscenced to make and sell cheese. If thats the case then every housewife/mother who makes halloween costumes for hers and friedns kids and the elder neighbors who take the tomatoes out of their garden to give to others should have to be liscenced for that as well. Its all about the fact our government and their conglomerate counterparts missed out on a profit. Because the point is you just have to pay for a liscence-nothing more.

david dykes 10/28/07 8:14 PM
I live in Mexico, and here, like in the USA, most cheese is made by big corporations. However, queso fresco can't really be produced that way due to the fact that it has a short shelf life. I eat cheese made on ranches here all the time, never even occurred to me that it might make me sick, never has. it comes to town in a basket with a cloth over it and laurel leaves packed in between the layers of cheese. i might be taking my life into my own hands eating these products, but its a risk I've been willing to take for years without having succumbed to e-coli or botulism or any other deadly diseases.

Devi 10/28/07 9:17 PM
Yeah...I can just see that jailhouse conversation 'So, what are you in here for?' 'oh, i killed my wife and mother-in-law. You?' 'I made some cheese in my bathtub.....' Classic

Glenn L. Andrews 10/29/07 4:31 AM (
Quote: Floribel Hernandez Cuenca, 29, and Manuel Martin Sanchez Garrido, 44, of Montclair, were arrested for selling a variety of unlicensed cheeses to the public. Ms. Cuenca was also arrested on felony cheese making charges. Felony cheese charges? You mean these people can actually go to prison for more than a year for this? Give me a break! This should be a $500 dollar civil violation or simple misdeamnor. Making felons out of poor people trying to make a buck selling food is ridiculous. It's cheese, not crack. Senor Boogie Woogie..........

Randolph Carter 10/29/07 6:51 AM
Do a google on homemade cheese listeria outbreak. Substitute any of the other disease terms if you like. If you want the answer, look it up yourself next time instead of assuming it hasn't happened because you haven't heard of it.

XSR 10/29/07 8:20 AM
Praise be Big Brother, he knows better than us. Do not question the almighty forces of our government. You know better than that right? He's got Jesus on His side!

Richard Kent 10/29/07 11:51 AM
I actually googled "homemade cheese listeria outbreak", funny thing is, the listeria infection was present in the milk purchased from a local licensed dairy. Maybe people who google things should also take the time to read them.

Adam Smasher 10/29/07 1:23 PM
Well, to be honest, I've made gin in a bathtub. A bathtub could've really been used.

Lauren 10/29/07 1:28 PM
There's nothing wrong with certain foreign fresh, unpasteurized cheeses that are eaten before they have a chance to spoil. But eating cheese out of some Mexican dude's bathtub is wacky and super disgusting, I'm sorry. One of the top 12 dirtiest places in the home is your bath tub. Guess what's in there? Listeria, salmonella, molds and even E. Coli from fecal residue. Would you want to stick your tongue down their bath drain? No, right? So why would you want their cheese? Idiots deserve to be caught, however a felony is very unfortunate for them.

Jeff 10/29/07 2:29 PM
{Koshka 10/27/07 2:05 PM The most radical thing you can do is make food or buy from those who do.} Are you freaking serious?!? I hope you are joking! How is making your own food radical? I love my garden, and don't see it as radical at all! "Bathtub" is just a moniker. Home-made cheese rocks! I'll agree with Tom whipple, I think the problem is that they were un-licensed. Which means what, children? That the government wasn't taking their cut. Their bribe, Their 'tax', as it is. Isn't it wonderful to be controlled by the government, instead of controlling the government?

Matt 10/29/07 7:11 PM
I guess I should stop my toilet ravioli business now.

Drew 10/29/07 8:15 PM
Cheese! Can't everyone just get a log?

JBob 10/29/07 8:17 PM
Jeff, I'm pretty sure "radical" was meant to be a good thing! ;)

Randolph Carter 10/29/07 9:56 PM
Richard, go back and read it again. The MMWR piece does mention a dairy being involved, but it was selling raw milk, the likely source of the original contamination. Use contaminated milk, and your cheese will be contaminated. Listeriosis can be very dangerous to expectant mothers and their fetuses. Make it with pasteurized milk, and you have a lower risk. It is a public safety and health issue, not some conspiracy to control who can make cheese. I like queso blanco, but am not about to eat it if it was made with raw milk.

cheesehead 10/29/07 10:33 PM
i found an organic farm where i can get unpasteurized milk/butter/cheese & eggs... hasn't made me sick in the last 3 years... you have no idea how good it tastes, too... yum... anyways, the risk of infection from unpasteurized/homogenized "raw" foods is far offset by the benefits... it ought to be a matter of choice if someone wants to buy "homemade" & "farm-fresh" foods... license regulations make some, particularly old-world & ethnic, meat/cheeses/sausage products illegal... regardless, buying/selling soft cheese in an open-air market...? that's kinda stupid... san bernardino ain't bangladesh... where's your common sense about food safety...?

steveshacket 11/1/07 1:21 PM
What's the deal? I have leftover cheese in my bathtub all the time.

Bunny 11/1/07 5:08 PM
I'd like to know just what are the "felony cheese making charges". Don't we have anything else to do? The federalies never said it was contaminated, never said it was bad. I think they are just pissed because "they" didn't make any $ off of it. I mean where would this country be without the bathtub products of the world?

Michael 1/28/08 5:34 PM (
The cheese that was being produced was a soft cheese. It was probably made from raw milk which produces great tasting cheese. Most raw milk cheeses are allowed in the U.S. under with the rule that it must age for at least 60 days at which point the P.H. level goes acid and kills all the bad germs. Soft cheeses can have very nasty bugs if they are not aged long enough and no, you wouldnt taste them, just "feel" them later. Don't you watch "HOUSE" on fox. "Bathtub" cheese is made in Mexico and generally does not make people sick. I can be dangerous to your children and older people. If your kid died you would be pissed that the authorities were not at that market stopping them from selling the stuff. Learn cheese, its fun but there are rules.

halmonte 4/16/08 5:30 PM
I don't know about this case but I found this page looking for a story on bath tub cheese. I can assure you that cheese has been made in bath tubs because I saw a story on 60 minutes several years ago where they interviewed an immigrant family that was making and selling cheese they made in the tub and they showed how they did it on tv. I agree that prosecuting someone for felony cheese making is a ridiculous waste of time. I do believe that one should be careful who they buy cheese from if it is made at home but I know that it's not hard to make and if made correctly there is little or no risk involved with eating home made cheese.

MarYJanE 7/8/08 4:38 PM
Maybe some of you dont care about this issue b/c you dont live in so cal... more specifically San Diego... but we have taco shops that use this nasty cheese and we want it to stop. Its just freaking disgusting.... everyone is pointing out that the health risk is in the unpasteurized milk but how about the nasty a$$ bathtub its being produced in? get it together sickos!!!

Anechidna 8/13/08 3:55 AM
Wow. Found this series of posts while researching home made cheeses. Yes, well we do have to ask how many people die or are seriously affected by illegally made home made cheese, versus lets say pizza topping as in Florida 08, or lettuce salads. The real nasty is they were not contributing to State taxes. Cheese made from raw milk needs to be stored for 60 days after making to ensure all the nasties are banished. We all seem to be acquiring nanny state, governments and bureaucrats, Lord save us from disaster. Have a look at how easy it is to make cheese, enjoy your own efforts and enage with life. No preservatives to poison our bodies, no cancers being triggered. Yep these illegal cheese guys are worse than crack dealers we will show them.

Chill 1/13/09 4:18 PM (
I find it interesting that there are NO CHARGES of any "illnesses" caused by consuming any of this cheese. This article only pressumes that it MAY cause illness. There is no proof that any harm has actually been done whatsoever.

De'Ana 8/29/10 9:27 PM
“Illegally produced is cheese is serious threat to public health,” says CDFA Secretary A.G. Kawamura. Seriously. cause i thought McDonalds and the corporations that are trying to extinct many crops and animals as well as pollute the earth is a threat to public health but i guess i was wrong. I'm also pretty sure that that quote is not proper English, so way to go. Thanks for destroying the planet and taking away the freedom that i thought we had. Since when is producing our own food illegal. If we ever run into a war, we're not going to be able to survive because no one knows how to produce food they only know how to kill land.

Lisa 5/15/11 1:24 AM (
Ridiculous! They had probably made those same types of cheese in their home countries for years. I ate the horrifying homemade cheese in Europe for years, and never became ill. The CDFA agents who busted them were probably the same ones who I once overheard at a meeting discussing Mad Cow Disease and the culling of "downer" cows say, "It's not a downed cow if you can make it stand up." And I think we have all seen the nice methods used to make sick, dying cattle stand up so we can eat them!

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