The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local partners, are investigating a multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections potentially linked to Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses.
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.
The CDC reported that seven people infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes had 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.
Sample analysis showed Listeria monocytogenes in samples of El Abuelito Queso Fresco sold in 10 oz packages, marked as Lot A027, with an expiration date 02/26/2021.
Samples are currently undergoing Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) analysis to determine if the Listeria monocytogenes found in these samples match the outbreak strain, the FDA said.
According to the investigation conducted by the CDC and the FDA, there is not enough evidence to determine if this outbreak is linked to El Abuelito Queso Fresco.
The FDA said it has initiated an investigation and is collecting information to determine the outbreak’s source. 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.
Federal and state health agencies are working with the firm to recall the affected lot and determine if additional products should be recalled. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available.
Consumers, restaurants, and retailers should not eat, sell, or serve El Abuelito Queso Fresco cheese until more information is known, said the FDA.
If you are at higher risk for severe Listeria illness (if you are pregnant, aged 65 or older, or have a weakened immune system due to certain medical conditions or treatments), do not eat any Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses, including El Abuelito brand queso fresco cheese, until health officials identify which cheeses are making people sick in this outbreak.
Call your healthcare provider right away if you have these symptoms after eating Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses:
Pregnant people typically experience only fever, fatigue, and muscle aches. However, during pregnancy, Listeria infection can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn.
People who are not pregnant may experience headaches, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions, in addition to fever and muscle aches.
Generally, make sure the Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses (like queso fresco) you eat have labels that state, “Made with pasteurized milk.”
Be aware that Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses made from pasteurized milk have caused Listeria outbreaks. Although milk’s pasteurization kills Listeria, products made from pasteurized milk can still become contaminated if produced in unsanitary facilities.