Around 450 kilos of Chilean goat cheese have been destroyed after it led to a massive health alert in the Metropolitan Region of Santiago in December.

Supplies of the toxic cheese, produced in northern Chile's Region IV, have already caused 35 cases of severe food poisoning and more than 200 cases of gastritis, diarrhea, fevers and vomiting.

After an investigation revealed that the cheese was infected by salmonella and other harmful bacteria, Santiago's Metropolitan Environmental Health Service (Sesma) destroyed the cheese under controlled conditions.

Experts say that if the dairy product had not been impounded, it could have infected at least 5,000 more people.

Sesma Director Jose Concha said the authorities could not realistically hope to impose hygienic standards on all small cheese makers.  Concha called instead for purchasers to demand information about production methods and to beware of suspicious cheeses.

He advised consumers to ask about date of manufacture, sell-by date and makers' environmental hygiene certificate number.

By Steve Anderson, just-food.com correspondent