EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: Tuesday, March 23, 5 p.m., Eastern Time
Queso fresco, a quintessential ingredient in Mexican cuisine, would retain higher quality in supermarket display cases if stored at a lower temperature. That’s the conclusion of a report presented here today at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.
“The increasing popularity of Hispanic food in the US is causing attention to be focused on the chemistry of these products for the first time,” Michael H. Tunick said. He is with the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service in Wyndmoor, Penn. “Hispanic-style cheeses are one of the fastest growing styles of cheese in the U.S. because of the growing Hispanic population and the incorporation of the Hispanic cuisine into the American diet. Federal Standards of Identity for Hispanic-style cheese have not been established and, as a result, considerable brand-to-brand variation exists for these cheeses sold in the U.S.”
The scientists found that storage at a typical home refrigerator temperature of 39 degrees F. allows the cheese to retain its characteristic texture for two months. However, some breakdown in structure occurs at 50 degrees F., the standard supermarket display case temperature. Based on the findings, Tunick suggested that the cheese’s sell-by date in stores could be one month, and a "consume-by" date could be a month after that.