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This brand of cheese has been linked to the Listeria outbreak, so throw it out

Published Feb 22nd, 2021 5:16PM EST
food recall
Image: New Africa/Adobe

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  • A notice from the FDA and CDC last week revealed that a strain of Listeria was spreading across several US states, and health officials were hunting for the source. 
  • A new update from the FDA is accompanied by a recall bulletin for specific brands of Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses that have tested positive for Listeria.
  • The outbreak has already sent several people to the hospital and threatens to gain momentum if great care is not taken.

Last week we told you about an investigation that had been launched by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control. Their target is the source of a strange Listeria monocytogenes outbreak which has sickened at least seven people that we know of so far and sent all of them to the hospital with nasty symptoms. At the time, it wasn’t clear if there was a single brand or producer that was responsible for the cheeses that were making everyone sick, but that may have changed.

In a new recall bulletin and update to the investigation announcement, the FDA and CDC say that cheese from the company El Abuelito Cheese, which is sold under the brand names El Abuelito, Rio Grande, and Rio Lindo, have tested positive for Listeria. The health officials are still working to confirm that the specific strain of Listeria is the same that was making people sick, but at the moment it seems likely.

Any Queso Fresco products sold under those brand names with sell-by dates through 03/28/2021 are subject to recall. You can find all of the UPC codes and product descriptions on the recall bulletin, and there are quite a few of them. “The products are sold as El Abuelito Cheese brand, distributed in CT, NJ, PA, NY; Rio Grande Food Products brand, distributed in VA, NC, MD; and Rio Lindo distributed in NC and MD. The products were distributed through Feb 16, 2021 and were available in supermarkets, wholesale, and retails stores,” the recall states.

In partnership with the FDA and CDC, the Connecticut Department of Public Health obtained samples of cheeses from a store where an individual who fell ill had recently shopped. The samples revealed the presence of Listeria in the products sold under the brand names now subject to recall.

The investigation isn’t over. Health experts are now performing Whole Genome Sequencing on the samples to see if it matches up with the strain of Listeria that has landed people in the hospital. At the same time, the FDA is working with El Abuelito to further isolate the cause of the Listeria contamination, though no further details are available at this time.

Needless to say, if you have any of the product that is subject to recall, do not eat it. You can either throw it away or return it to the place where you purchased it for a full refund. Additional information including contact numbers for the company are provided on the recall notice.