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

FDA

The FDA, along with CDC and state and local partners, investigated a multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections linked to queso fresco cheeses made by El Abuelito Cheese, Inc. On 5/14/2021, the CDC announced that this outbreak is over.

Recommendation

Recalled Queso Fresco, Quesillo (Oaxaca, string cheese), or Requeson (ricotta) cheeses are past shelf life and should no longer be available.

FDA recommends that anyone who received recalled products 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.

People who are pregnant, are age 65 or over, or have a weakened immune system should not eat any soft cheeses unless they are made with pasteurized milk. Consumers at higher risk for Listeria illness should be aware that although pasteurization of milk kills Listeria, soft cheeses made from pasteurized milk can still become contaminated and have caused Listeria outbreaks, including this one.


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 Cheeses

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 as of May 14, 2021

Case Counts

Total Illnesses: 13
Hospitalizations: 12
Deaths: 1
Last Illness Date: 3/17/2021
States with Cases: CT (1), MD (5), NY (4), and VA (3)
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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