Long-running listeria outbreak that killed 2 is linked to cotija and queso fresco from California

The recall includes yogurt and sour cream sold under the brands Tio Francisco, Don Francisco, Rizo Bros, Rio Grande, Santa Maria, Dos Ranchitos, 365 Whole Foods Market and others ...

Brands of cheese recalled by the CDC.CDC via AP/NBC News

Associated Press – A California cheese and dairy company is the source of a decade-long outbreak of listeria food poisoning that killed two people and sickened more than two dozen, federal health officials said Tuesday.

New lab and inspection evidence linked soft cheeses and other dairy products made by Rizo-Lopez Foods of Modesto, California, to the outbreak, which was first detected in June 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Since then, at least 26 people in 11 states have been sickened. They include a person who died in California in 2017 and one who died in Texas in 2020, CDC officials said …

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the outbreak Feb. 6.

For a list of recalled products provided be the company, click here.

The recalled products were distributed nationwide. Products also were sold at retail deli counters including at the following stores and under these brands:

  • Campesino
  • Casa Cardenas
  • Don Francisco
  • Dos Ranchitos
  • El Huache
  • Food City
  • La Ordena
  • Rio Grande
  • Rizo Bros
  • San Carlos
  • Santa Maria
  • Tio Francisco
  • 365 Whole Foods Market

In January 2024, the Hawaii State Department of Health’s Food and Drug Branch collected a sample of aged cotija cheese product made by Rizo-López Foods during routine sampling. Testing identified the outbreak strain of Listeria in the product.

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The U.S. FDA conducted inspections at the Rizo-López Foods facility and collected food and environmental samples for testing. FDA found the outbreak strain of Listeria on a container where cheeses are kept before they are packaged.

Whole genome sequencing has linked the cheese to illnesses dating back to 2014, with the more recent patient having become ill in December 2023.

About Listeria infections
Food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes may not look or smell spoiled but can still cause serious and sometimes life-threatening infections. Anyone who has eaten any recalled products and developed symptoms of Listeria infection should seek medical treatment and tell their doctors about the possible Listeria exposure.

Also, anyone who has eaten any of the recalled products should monitor themselves for symptoms during the coming weeks because it can take up to 70 days after exposure to Listeria for symptoms of listeriosis to develop.

Symptoms of Listeria infection can include vomiting, nausea, persistent fever, muscle aches, severe headache, and neck stiffness. Specific laboratory tests are required to diagnose Listeria infections, which can mimic other illnesses.

Pregnant women, the elderly, young children, and people such as cancer patients who have weakened immune systems are particularly at risk of serious illnesses, life-threatening infections, and other complications. Although infected pregnant women may experience only mild, flu-like symptoms, their infections can lead to premature delivery, infection of the newborn, or even stillbirth.

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