Nearly 635 million kilograms of American cheese are in cold storage in the United States. That’s roughly 1.8 kilos of cheese for every American, the highest amount since record-keeping began in 1917.
And that amount could go higher as the two main US dairy states – California and Wisconsin – deal with the impact of retaliatory tariffs on dairy products from Mexico and China.
On 5 July, Mexico and China put tariffs on $986 million worth of US dairy exports－$408 million worth of cheese to China and $578 million worth of dairy products to Mexico－as retaliation for the Trump administration’s tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum. US dairy exports totaled $5.5 billion last year, including $1.3 billion to Mexico alone, according to the US Agriculture Department.
Canadian cheese and dairy giant Saputo Inc. is hoping to use its international operations to milk the Mexican market in the wake of impending tariffs.
The Montreal-based company doesn’t have a large Mexican presence yet, but could see opportunities in the country crop up if U.S. dairy producers retreat from Mexico because of tariffs of up to 25 per cent on U.S. cheese exporters, says chief executive officer Lino Saputo.
A brucellosis outbreak in Texas has been linked to unpasteurized cheese from Mexico, according to a health advisory issued by the Dallas County Department of Health and Human Services. A record number of 13 people have been diagnosed in 2016 so far. Dallas usually has only 2 to 6 cases of brucellosis every year. There were 11 Brucella infections total in 2014.
The cheeses were brought into the U.S. from Mexico by friends or relatives, consumed while traveling in Mexico, or bought from local street vendors. The patient age range is from 6 to 80 years. Most required hospitalization to start treatment. And two incidents of “high-risk occupational exposures of hospital laboratory personnel have occurred during handling of these clinical Brucella isolates.”