USA – Outbreak Investigation of Listeria monocytogenes – Hispanic-style Fresh and Soft Cheeses (February 2021) – Update

FDA

The FDA, along with CDC and state and local partners, are investigating a multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections linked to queso fresco cheeses made by El Abuelito Cheese, Inc.

On 2/19/2021, El Abuelito Cheese, Inc. announced their initial recall of products, and on 2/27/2021, they announced the expansion of their recall to cover additional products that are manufactured or handled in the same facility as the Queso Fresco products linked to this outbreak.

On 3/9/2021, the FDA received confirmation that recalled cheeses were also distributed to Rhode Island. States with confirmed distribution now include: AL, CT, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, MA, MD, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, NJ, NY, NE, OH, PA, RI, SC, TN, VA, and WI. View additional recall information.

Recommendation

Consumers, restaurants, and retailers should not eat, sell, or serve any recalled Queso Fresco, Quesillo (Oaxaca, string cheese), or Requeson (ricotta) cheeses.

Recalled brands by cheese type include:

  • Queso Fresco: El Abuelito, Rio Grande, Rio Lindo
  • Quesillo: El Abuelito, El Viejito, El Paisano, El Sabrosito, La Cima, Quesos Finos, San Carlos, Ideal Brands
  • Requeson: El Abuelito, El Viejito

FDA recommends that anyone who purchased or received any recalled Queso Fresco, Quesillo, or Requeson cheeses use extra vigilance in cleaning and sanitizing any surfaces and containers that may have come in contact with these products to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. Listeria can survive in refrigerated temperatures and can easily spread to other foods and surfaces.

Some of the recalled cheeses were sold in bulk quantities and could have been repackaged by retailers. Ask your retailer if any Queso Fresco or Quesillo cheese you buy was repackaged from the cheeses recalled by El Abuelito. If you are unable to obtain an answer, do not buy it and throw away the potentially recalled cheese you have at home.

If you are at higher risk for severe Listeria infection (if you are pregnant, aged 65 or older, or have a weakened immune system due to certain medical conditions or treatments), call your healthcare provider right away if you have these symptoms after eating any Queso Fresco, Quesillo, or Requeson cheeses produced by El Abuelito:

  • Pregnant people typically experience only fever, fatigue, and muscle aches. However, Listeria infection during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn.
  • People who are not pregnant may experience headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions, in addition to fever and muscle aches.

Follow these five steps to clean your refrigerator, containers, and surfaces that may have touched the cheeses. Listeria can survive in the refrigerator and can easily spread to other foods and surfaces.


Product Images

Sample Product Label from the Outbreak Investigation of Listeria monocytogenes in Hispanic-style Fresh and Soft Cheeses (February 2021) - Rio Grande
Sample Product Label from the Outbreak Investigation of Listeria monocytogenes in Hispanic-style Fresh and Soft Cheeses (February 2021) - Rio Grande
Sample Product Label from the Outbreak Investigation of Listeria monocytogenes in Hispanic-style Fresh and Soft Cheeses (February 2021) - Rio Lindo
Sample Product Label from the Outbreak Investigation of Listeria monocytogenes in Hispanic-style Fresh and Soft Cheeses (February 2021) - El Abuelito
Sample Product Label from the Outbreak Investigation of Listeria monocytogenes in Hispanic-style Fresh and Soft Cheeses (February 2021) - Chirilagua, Yorito

Recall Information

On 2/19/2021, El Abuelito Cheese, Inc. announced their initial recall of products, and on 2/27/2021, they announced the expansion of their recall to cover additional products. The recall announcements include the full product list and descriptions.

Consumers, restaurants, and retailers should not eat, sell, or serve any recalled Queso Fresco, Quesillo (Oaxaca, string cheese), or Requeson (ricotta) cheeses.

The firm’s recall does not include any additional products with the El Abuelito Cheese, Inc. label because they are not manufactured or handled in the same facility; this includes El Abuelito Meat, Inc., panela cheese, cotija cheese, mole, crema centroamericana, and crema mexicana. Updates will be provided as they become available.

FDA has posted lists of retailers that may have received Hispanic-styles cheeses from the El Abuelito Cheese, Inc. facility in Paterson N.J.  It is possible that these lists may not include all retailers who have received these cheeses; however, these lists represents the best information currently available to the FDA.

Map of U.S. Distribution of Recalled Queso Fresco, Quesillo, and Requeson Cheeseso

Map of U.S. Distribution of Recalled Queso Fresco, Quesillo, and Requeson Cheeseso as of March 9, 2021

Case Count Map Provided by CDC

CDC Case Count Map for the Outbreak Investigation of Listeria monocytogenes in Hispanic-style Fresh and Soft Cheeses - 2/24/2021

Case Counts

Total Illnesses: 11
Hospitalizations: 10
Deaths: 1
Last Illness Date: 2/14/2021
States with Cases: CT (1), MD (4), NY (4), and VA (2)
Product Distribution*: AL, CT, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, MA, MD, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, NJ, NY, NE, OH, PA, RI, SC, TN, VA, WI
*States with confirmed distribution; product could have been distributed further

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