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The Abuela Project

A Community Based Food Safety Intervention

by: Val Hillers, Ph.D. , Extension Food Specialist


The Abuela Project: A Community Based Food Safety Intervention

Rates of foodborne illness in Yakima County Washington were very high.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linked many of the illnesses to consumption ofqueso fresco (fresh cheese), a traditional food in the Hispanic diet that is frequently made in the home from raw (unpasteurized) milk.
Washington State University developed a food safety intervention to reduce the rate of foodborne illness from eating raw-milkqueso fresco.  

The Intervention:
  • A pasteurized-milkqueso fresco recipe with taste and texture acceptable to the Hispanic residents of Yakima County was developed.

  • Fifteen older Hispanic women -abuelas (grandmothers) - were trained to make pasteurized-milkqueso fresco.

  • Each Abuela agreed to conduct safe cheese workshops and teach at least 15 others to make pasteurized-milkqueso fresco.

The Results:
  • More than 500 people in Yakima County and surrounding areas have attended safe cheese workshops.

  • Before attending a safe cheese workshop, half of the participants in the workshops used raw milk to makequeso fresco.

  • After attending a safe cheese workshop, all Abuelas and participants reported that they used pasteurized milk to makequeso fresco.

  • In addition to those who attended a safe cheese workshop, several thousand people have learned to makequeso fresco by reading the flyer and/or viewing the video "Fresh Cheese Made Safely in Your Kitchen" (both are available in English and Spanish).

  • After the intervention was implemented, cases of foodborne illness decreased sharply in Yakima County.

  • The project has been expanded to other counties in Washington.

  • The focus of the intervention has been expanded to provide assistance to small unlicensed vendors ofqueso fresco to enable them to become licensed to produce and market queso fresco with pasteurized milk.

  • The Abuela Project resulted in a reduction in foodborne illness, while preserving the cultural tradition of home preparation ofqueso fresco.

If you want to learn to makequeso fresco at home, order the videotape and flyer with complete directions from WSU Bulletins Office (



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