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Citation, fine issued for 'Mr. Cheese' in Salmonella outbreak

SALT LAKE CITY — A citation and fine have been leveled against a man accused of illegally producing and selling homemade cheese.

Fidel Gomez — initially dubbed "Mr. Cheese" by state regulators — was issued a citation and ordered to pay a $500 fine for violating the Utah Dairy Act, according to a news release issued Thursday by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. Investigators found Gomez as part of their investigation into a homemade queso fresco that was causing an outbreak of Salmonella Newport.

The strain of bacteria can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Reports have placed the number of confirmed cases between 40 and 80, but have said the unreported cases may be in the thousands.

The news release states that Gomez was producing the cheese in his West Valley City home without the proper sanitation equipment or a license or permit. At least one Salt Lake Valley restaurant, in turn, was selling the cheese.

"The Division of Regulatory Services urges consumers to not purchase foods that are unlabeled and to exercise caution when purchasing food from door-to-door salespeople, and at other locations where food is not ordinarily sold," the news release states.