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  1. Outbreaks of Foodborne Illness

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

Do not eat, sell, or serve El Abuelito brand cheeses or recalled queso fresco cheeses.

en Español (Spanish)

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.

As part of this outbreak investigation, the Connecticut Department of Public Health collected product samples of El Abuelito-brand Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses from a store where a sick person bought cheeses. On 2/19/2021, Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) analysis conducted by the Connecticut State Laboratory determined that the Listeria monocytogenes found in the samples is a match to the outbreak strain. On 2/19/2021, El Abuelito Cheese, Inc. of Paterson, NJ recalled all Queso Fresco products with “sell by” dates through 03/28/21. Products include El Abuelito, Rio Grande, and Rio Lindo brand queso frescos, distributed to CT, MD, NC, NJ, NY, PA, and VA. A full list of recalled products is included below. At this time, El Abuelito Cheese, Inc. has ceased production and distribution of all products.

Out of an abundance of caution, and due to the severity of Listeria infection, the FDA is expanding its warning to include all El Abuelito brand cheeses until more information is known. According to the firm’s website, this includes queso fresco, Oaxaca cheese, cotija cheese, and crema. The FDA is working with the firm to recall any additional products that could be contaminated and has initiated an on-site inspection of the facility. Updates will be provided as they become available.

Recommendation

Consumers, restaurants, and retailers should not eat, sell, or serve any El Abuelito brand cheeses, including, but not limited to, the recalled El Abuelito cheeses listed below. Additionally they should not eat, sell, or serve any recalled Rio Grande and Rio Lindo brand queso fresco cheeses.   

FDA recommends that anyone who purchased or received any El Abuelito brand cheeses or 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.


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

Consumers, restaurants, and retailers should not eat, sell, or serve any El Abuelito brand cheeses, including, but not limited to, the recalled El Abuelito cheeses listed below. Additionally they should not eat, sell, or serve any recalled Rio Grande and Rio Lindo brand queso fresco cheeses.   

On 2/19/2021, El Abuelito Cheese of Paterson, NJ recalled all Queso Fresco products within expiration. Products include:

Brand

Product Name

Size

Container Type

UPC Code

El Abuelito Cheese

Queso Fresco Regular

12 oz.

Plastic Container

673130100003

El Abuelito Cheese

Queso Fresco Promoción

10 oz.

Plastic Container

673130100078

El Abuelito Cheese

Queso Fresco de Hoja

12 oz.

Plastic Container

673130100065

El Abuelito Cheese

Queso Fresco

5 Lb.

Vaccuum Packed

673130100058

El Abuelito Cheese

Queso Fresco Guatemala

12 oz.

Plastic Container

673130100027

Rio Grande Food Products, Inc.

Chirilagua Queso de Hacienda

12 oz.

Plastic Container

738529005571

Rio Grande Food Products, Inc.

Queso Fresco Campestre con Hoja

14 oz.

Plastic Container

812324031161

Rio Grande Food Products, Inc.

Queso Fresco Campestre Artesanal

14 oz.

Plastic Container

738529002518

Rio Grande Food Products, Inc.

Queso Fresco con Hoja

14 oz.

Plastic Container

738529004581

Rio Grande Food Products, Inc.

Queso Fresco Yorito

12 oz.

Plastic Container

738529005564

Rio Grande Food Products, Inc.

Queso Fresco Olancho

14 oz.

Plastic Container

812324031222

Rio Grande Food Products, Inc.

Cuajada Fresca Guatemalteca

12 oz.

Plastic Container

738529001276

Rio Grande Food Products, Inc.

Cuajada Fresca Hondureña

12 oz.

Plastic Container

738529001269

Rio Grande Food Products, Inc.

Cuajada Fresca Salvadoreña

12 oz.

Plastic Container

738529001252

Rio Lindo

Queso Fresco Mexicano

12 oz.

Plastic Container

718122088587

Rio Lindo

Queso Fresco Hondureño

12 oz.

Plastic Container

718122088591

Rio Lindo

Queso Fresco Salvadoreño

12 oz.

Plastic Container

718122088607

Map of U.S. Distribution of Recalled El Abuelito Queso Fresco

U.S. Distribution of Recalled El Abuelito Queso Fresco

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: 10
Hospitalizations: 9
Deaths: 0
Last Illness Date: 2/9/2021
States with Cases: MD (4), CT (1), NY (4), and VA (1)
Product Distribution*: CT, MD, NC, NJ, NY, PA, VA
*States with confirmed distribution; product could have been distributed further


Previous Updates

February 19, 2021

The FDA, along with the 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.

As part of this outbreak investigation, the Connecticut Department of Public Health collected product samples of El Abuelito-brand Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses from a store where a sick person bought cheeses. Sample analysis showed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in samples of El Abuelito Queso Fresco sold in 10 oz packages, marked as Lot A027 with an expiration date of 02/26/2021. On 2/19/2021, Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) analysis conducted by the Connecticut State Laboratory determined that the Listeria monocytogenes found in the samples is a match to the outbreak strain.

On 2/19/2021, El Abuelito Cheese, Inc. of Paterson, NJ recalled all Queso Fresco products with “sell by” dates through 03/28/21. Products include El Abuelito, Rio Grande, and Rio Lindo brand queso frescos, distributed to CT, MD, NC, NJ, NY, PA, and VA. A full list of recalled products is included below. At this time, El Abuelito Cheese, Inc. has ceased production and distribution of all products.

February 17, 2021

The FDA, along with CDC and state and local partners, are investigating a multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections potentially linked to Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses.

FDA has initiated an investigation and is collecting information to try to determine the source of the outbreak. Although the investigation is ongoing, CDC’s analysis of epidemiologic information indicates that Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses are the leading hypotheses for the cause of the illnesses. No specific type or brand of cheese has been confirmed as the source of illness. CDC reported that seven people infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported in Connecticut, Maryland, New York, and Virginia. Six of the seven ill people are Hispanic. Of the four people interviewed, three reported eating at least one type of Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses, and each of the three reported eating queso fresco.

As part of this outbreak investigation, the Connecticut Department of Public Health collected product samples of El Abuelito-brand Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses from a store where a sick person bought cheeses. Sample analysis showed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in samples of El Abuelito Queso Fresco sold in 10 oz packages, marked as Lot A027 with an expiration date of 02/26/2021. Samples are currently undergoing Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) analysis to determine if the Listeria monocytogenes found in these samples is a match to the outbreak strain. At this time, there is not enough evidence to determine if this outbreak is linked to El Abuelito Queso Fresco.

FDA and state partners are working with the firm to recall the affected lot and to determine if additional products should be recalled. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available.

February 12, 2021

The FDA, along with CDC and state and local partners, are investigating a multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections potentially linked to Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses.

FDA has initiated an investigation and is collecting information to try to determine the source of the outbreak. Although the investigation is ongoing, CDC’s analysis of epidemiologic information indicates that Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses are the leading hypotheses for the cause of the illnesses. No specific type or brand of cheese has been confirmed as the source of illness. CDC reported that seven people infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported in Connecticut, Maryland, New York, and Virginia. Six of the seven ill people are Hispanic. Of the four people interviewed, three reported eating at least one type of Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses, and all three reported eating queso fresco.

FDA is in the beginning stages of this investigation, and there may be additional products impacted by this outbreak. As this outbreak investigation continues, the FDA will provide additional updates as more information becomes available.

Who to Contact

Consumers who have symptoms should contact their health care provider to report their symptoms and receive care.

To report a complaint or adverse event (illness or serious allergic reaction), you can

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