ACES PhD student Luis Sanchez advances fresh cheeses in Mexico
Luis Ibarra (left) and Esau Giron Lopez, Ch.E., Production Coordinator for “MUAQ” (right), at UAQ-Amazcala cheese processing plant.
December 4, 2018

The following are reflections from Luis Ibarra Sanchez, a PhD student in Food Science and Human Nutrition, on his research project, which was partially funded by an ACES International Graduate Grant: “The effect of adding antimicrobials to Queso Fresco on Latino consumers’ acceptance." Luis's advisor is Dr. Michael Miller. 

"I visited Autonomous University of Queretaro’s (UAQ) facilities dedicated to elaborate fresh cheeses for local commerce (Mexico - Amazcala campus) with the following purposes: 1) to learn about the facilities and equipment used to elaborate cheeses and dairy products, 2) to observe the cheese-making process of Panela, Ranchero and Manchego-type cheeses (widely consumed cheeses in Mexico), and 3) to identify and collect useful information for potential future collaborations between Dr. Miller’s lab and UAQ.

I did have experience in making Mexican fresh cheeses during my undergrad, and I’m thankful to have the opportunity to learn about the current and continuous efforts of UAQ to be connected with the community, in this case with local commerce of cheese and dairy products (the products are sold under the brand MUAQ). UAQ authorities are committed to ensure the safety and quality of their products.

With the help of Dr. Amaya’s group (UAQ), I also evaluated the consumer’s liking of Queso Fresco with two added commercial antimicrobials, lauric arginate and ε-polylysine. Those antimicrobial have shown promising results in previous work in our lab. The sensory evaluation showed that the great majority of participants (about 70%) did not detect a difference between cheeses with and without the antimicrobials. This is a promising result and we will plan to conduct more evaluations from the consumer’s perspective with the help of Dr. Amaya’s group.

Finally I had the opportunity to give two small lectures at the university, specifically to students in the biology department. I shared my experience and outcomes of this project and also my current and past research work dedicated to investigating novel antimicrobials to inhibit Listeria in Queso Fresco.

Listeria contamination in fresh cheeses is not only of particular concern in the U.S., it is also a relevant health issue in Latin American countries where fresh cheeses are highly consumed. Queso fresco and other fresh cheeses can be produced safely, and having effective antimicrobial treatments will not only contribute to eliminating Listeria if contamination occurs, but also might help mitigate the stigma surrounding fresh cheeses of being unsafe."