Did You Know?
According to NBC news, cheese has been linked to 83 outbreaks involving 2,761 reported cases of illness since 1990, with salmonella the most common one.
Oaxaca, (pronounced wa-hah-kah), is a southern Mexican state. Queso Oaxaca, the white, soft cheese, which was first made in the state of Oaxaca, is named after this state. Today, Oaxaca is one of the leading cheese-producing states, and Queso Oaxaca is used widely in the Mexican cuisine, particularly in quesadillas and empanadas. It is sometimes referred to as the Mexican mozzarella. The cheese balls are shredded to top tostadas and appetizers like antojitos. The cheese slices are also added to quesadillas or chile rellenos.

Oaxaca cheese belongs to the category of 'semi-hard cheeses'. It is made from cow's milk. The string cheese process, discovered by Italians, is used to make this mozzarella-like cheese. Manufacturers stretch the cheese into long ribbons, and then roll up the ribbons to make soft cheese balls. When it is shaped like a ball, it is called quesillo Oaxaca or 'thread cheese'. When it comes in the form of bricks, it is called asadero (meaning 'roaster' or 'broiler') or queso quesadilla. Kneading and stretching the curd cheese into long ribbons, and making balls of cheese by gently winding the ribbons is really an art.

Nutritional Value of Oaxaca Cheese

Like other cheese types, this rind-less, Hispanic-style Oaxaca cheese is also rich in calcium and protein. Children especially love this cheese as it comes with a savory, pleasing, and buttery flavor. The calcium obtained from this cheese helps strengthen the teeth and bones. Protein is essential for regeneration of cells and strengthening of muscles. Other minerals like magnesium, and vitamins A and B12 play an important role in various metabolic reactions.

Queso Asadero, Serving Size: 0.99 oz (28 g)
Calories100 kcal
Water11.80 g
Total fat7.91 g
Carbohydrate0.80 g
Protein6.33 g
Total Dietary Fiber0 g
Total Sugars0.80 g
Calcium185 mg
Sodium197 mg
Potassium24 mg
Magnesium7 mg
Zinc0.85 mg
Iron0.14 mg
Phosphorus124 mg
Vitamin A IU53 IU
Vitamin A RAE15 µg
Vitamin B60.015 mg
Niacin0.051 mg
Riboflavin0.062 mg
Thiamin0.006 mg
Vitamin B120.28 µg
Folate0.2 µg
Vitamin D6 IU
Vitamin D2+D30.01 µg
Vitamin E0.07 mg
Vitamin K0.7 µg
Total Saturated Fat5.023 g
Total Monounsaturated Fat2.251 g
Total Polyunsaturated Fat0.238 g
Cholesterol29 mg

Source: USDA

Despite the health benefits, the cheese should be consumed in moderation. It is high in sodium and can affect heart health. Calories in Oaxaca cheese should also be taken into consideration, if you are on a weight loss diet. It contains saturated fat and cholesterol, excessive consumption of which can lead to clogged arteries.
Shocking Facts

The nutrients present in any food can improve your health only if the food is prepared in hygienic conditions. It is possible that the fresh, soft Oaxaca cheese is contaminated with harmful bacteria like E.coli and M. Bovis during production or processing.

In Jan. 2011 and in Aug. 2009, the FDA had posted notices of recalls and market withdrawals of Oaxaca String Cheese. Consumers were warned not to eat cheeses like Queso Fresco or Queso Oaxaca, which were likely to be made by unlicensed manufacturers, using unpasteurized milk. As you know, unpasteurized (raw, unheated) milk can contain harmful bacteria. The products were recalled because they were likely to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes and Staphylococcus aureus. A routine sampling program by the FDA revealed that the cheese contained the bacteria.

It was noticed that the cheese was transported unrefrigerated. This can promote fast growth of bacteria. It was also found that the packets were not properly labeled. This meant that they were not from a safe source. So, low cost should not be the only criterion while buying cheese. You should always look for a well-known brand, which can assure safety and quality.

Pregnant women should avoid soft cheeses like feta, brie, camembert, blue-veined, and Mexican-style cheese, which are likely to be contaminated with harmful bacteria like Listeria, Brucella, Salmonella, etc. Listeria monocytogenes infection can cause miscarriage and stillbirth. The bacteria can affect the health of the unborn baby. The infection can cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, fever, etc. In severe cases, it can lead to headache, muscle cramps, and temporary changes in blood pressure and pulse rate. Eventually, the infection can spread into the bloodstream of the person leading to his death. Young children, frail or elderly people, and people with a weakened immune system are more susceptible to such bacterial infections. Healthy individuals may notice short-term symptoms like fever, headache, abdominal pain, diarrhea, etc.

The cheese is safe only if it is made from pasteurized milk. Otherwise it can prove to be life-threatening or fatal. If you are consuming the cheese baked, roasted, or grilled, then it can be considered as safe. Oaxaca is a great melting cheese. Check whether 'pasteurized milk' is written in the list of ingredients on its label. The cheese should be factory-sealed, labeled, and refrigerated. At home, you should wrap it after every use, and store it in a refrigerator.

In Mexico, most cheeses (exceptions: Chihuahua and panela) are made by small business organizations and farms (family ranches), and are sold locally. Mostly, cheese-making is a home-based business. There are no standardized measures to judge the type, manufacturing process, or quality of the cheese. Several cases of tuberculosis and listeriosis have been detected in Mexico, which were linked to the use of raw milk in cheese production. The U.S. Government has imposed severe restrictions on transport of cheese.

You can always use Italian-style Mozzarella or Armenian String Cheese in place of Queso Oaxaca. These days, Oaxaca cheese is produced in the U.S. and U.K. too. Before buying it from anywhere, check the label and be sure that it is from a safe source.