Investigation by FDA and CDC on Listeria Outbreak Linked to Queso Fresco and Cotija Cheeses

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in collaboration with state and local health departments, are currently investigating an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections in multiple states. The source of these infections has been traced back to the consumption of queso fresco and cotija cheeses produced by Rizo Lopez Foods, Inc., a company located in Modesto, California. As a precautionary measure, the company has initiated a nationwide recall of all sell-by dates for its dairy products, advising consumers against consuming, selling, or serving the affected items.

Since 2014, there have been a total of 26 reported cases, 23 hospitalizations, and two deaths associated with the outbreak. This outbreak has affected multiple states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington. The investigation by the CDC and FDA was reopened in January 2024 after new illness reports surfaced in December 2023. Through the analysis of whole genome sequencing (WGS), it has been confirmed that the strain of Listeria found in a sample of Rizo Bros Aged Cotija cheese is the same strain responsible for the reported illnesses.

A wide range of dairy products, including cheese, yogurt, and sour cream, sold under various brand names like Tio Francisco, Don Francisco, Rizo Bros, Rio Grande, and 365 Whole Foods Market, among others, have been recalled. Rizo Lopez Foods, Inc. has temporarily stopped producing and distributing these products as the investigation is ongoing.

Listeriosis, the infection caused by Listeria monocytogenes, can manifest in a variety of ways. Mild symptoms may include fever and muscle aches. On the other hand, severe symptoms can include a headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and even convulsions. It is important to note that certain groups of people, such as pregnant individuals, newborns, adults aged 65 or older, and those with weakened immune systems, are at a higher risk of experiencing more severe illness.

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The FDA and CDC advise consumers, restaurants, and retailers to inspect their refrigerators and freezers for the recalled products and discard them. It is important to thoroughly clean and sanitize any surfaces and containers that may have come into contact with the recalled products to prevent cross-contamination. If you suspect you are experiencing symptoms of Listeriosis, it is recommended that you reach out to your healthcare provider.

The investigation is still ongoing to determine the source and extent of the contamination. We will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available. For detailed information on the recalled products and safety recommendations, consumers can refer to the Rizo Lopez recall announcement and the CDC food safety alert.

Tennessee has confirmed two cases of Listeria associated with this investigation.

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