Microbial analysis of commercially available US Queso Fresco

Maxwell J. Holle, Luis A. Ibarra-Sánchez, Xiaoji Liu, Matthew J. Stasiewicz, Michael J. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Queso Fresco (QF), a fresh Hispanic-style cheese, is often associated with Listeria monocytogenes outbreaks and recalls. Queso Fresco's susceptibility to bacterial contamination is partially due to its high pH and moisture content as well as Listeria's tolerance for the salt content typical for QF. Nine different brands of US QF, 2 packages from 4 different lots (to account for temporal variability), were sampled. The pH, salt content, and moisture content were analyzed in addition to microbial testing including yeasts and molds, coliforms, lactic acid bacteria enumeration, and L. monocytogenes counts. The cheeses were also inoculated with a cocktail of 5 food and human isolates of food-borne outbreak-associated Listeria monocytogenes strains to evaluate how the differences between brands influenced Listeria growth. Three of the cheeses underwent additional genus-level microbial analysis using extracted 16S rDNA, allowing for phylogenetic analysis between bacterial taxa including diversity and relative abundance. We found little variation between the sampled QF pH (range = 6.62–6.86), salt content (1.53–2.01%), and moisture content (43.90–54.50%). Yeasts and molds were below the detection limit of enumeration in all of the cheeses and coliforms were below the detection limit across the first 3 lots, but were detected at varying levels in the fourth lot (>3.0 most probable number/g) for 3 of the brands. Listeria monocytogenes was not isolated after enrichment in any of the samples. All cheeses tested positive for the presence of lactic acid bacteria, with only 1 of the cheeses being labeled as produced with added cultures having substantial counts. Fourteen days after inoculation with L. monocytogenes, at least 2.5 log10 cfu/g of growth was found for all QF brands stored at 4°C. Microbial genus analysis showed that, among the 3 brands, the microbial community was more similar within brand than when compared with the other 2 brands. Thermus, Anoxybacillus, and Streptococcus accounted for the dominant genera of brands A, B, and C, respectively. These variations within the microbial community may account for sensory differences and help manufacturers determine quality control consistency more readily than culture-based methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7736-7745
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2018


  • Listeria monocytogenes
  • Queso Fresco

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


Dive into the research topics of 'Microbial analysis of commercially available US Queso Fresco'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this