Listeria Outbreak Prompts Major Food Recall

Cases linked to dairy products from Rizo-López Foods
Lynn Petrak
Senior Editor
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Recalled dairy products
Rizo-López Foods recalled all cheeses and other dairy products made in their facility.

Foodborne pathogens associated with dairy products are back in the news, after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is actively investigating an ongoing Listeria outbreak that resulted in 26 illnesses, 23 hospitalizations and two deaths across 11 states. 

Queso fresco and similar cheese varieties are tied to the years-long outbreak. The CDC’s epidemiologists first looked into Listeria cases associated with such products in 2017 and 2021. While the teams were not able to identify a specific brand at that time, a more recent round of illnesses in December spurred the CDC to renew its work. 

[RELATED: Stew Leonard’s Recalls Cookies After Peanut Allergy Death]

This time, the Listeria strain turned up in a cheese sample from Rizo-López Foods, Inc. of Modesto, Calif. “Epidemiology and recent laboratory data show that queso fresco and cotija made by Rizo-López Foods, Inc. are making people in this outbreak sick,” the CDC reported on Feb. 6.

According to the CDC’s latest alert, state and local health officials are interviewing people about what they ate before they were sickened. Of the 22 people queried so far, 16 reported eating queso fresco, cotija, or other similar cheeses. Of those who recalled consuming specific brands, three people who got sick between 2014 and 2022 cited the Don Francisco brand of queso fresco or cotija. 

Don Francisco is one of the brands of cheeses voluntarily recalled this week by Rizo-López Foods. The company is recalling cheese, yogurt and sour cream sold under the brand names Tio Francisco, Don Francisco, Rizo Bros, Rio Grande, Food City, El Huache, La Ordena, San Carlos, Campesino, Santa Maria, Dos Ranchitos, Casa Cardenas and 365 Whole Foods Market, because the items have the potential to be contaminated with the pathogen Listeria monocytogenes.

The recalled products were distributed nationwide by Rizo-López Foods and through distributors. Products also were sold at retail deli counters including, but not limited to, El Super, Cardenas Market, Northgate Gonzalez, Superior Groceries, El Rancho, Vallarta, Food City, La Michoacana, and Numero Uno Markets, the manufacturer reported. 

The full list of affected products is available on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website.  

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