Federal health regulators are warning consumers not to eat, sell, or serve any cheese sold under the brand names “El Abuelito”, “Rio Grande” and “Rio Lindo”, after expanding a recent recall of queso fresco cheese believed to be the cause of an ongoing listeria food poisoning outbreak.
The FDA first announced a nationwide El Abuelito Queso Fresco cheese recall on February 19, after a strain of Listeria monocytogenes was identified in food poisoning outbreaks in four states, including Connecticut, Maryland, New York, and Virginia.
Late last week, the agency issued a recall expansion, indicating El Abuelito string cheese and ricotta products may also be contaminated.
In a listeria outbreak update issued by the CDC, health officials are now warning that all El Abuelito cheese products should be avoided, due to fear about how the cheese is made or handled at the manufacturing facilities, where it could have become contaminated. This includes products sold under the brand names El Abuelito, Rio Grande, and Rio Lindo.
According to the CDC, at least 10 people have now been diagnosed with listeria food poisoning linked to the recalled cheese products, with nine requiring hospitalization.
Interviews done by the CDC and their laboratory data show that queso fresco made by El Abuelito Cheese Inc. is the likely source of the listeria outbreak. Connecticut officials have also found listeria in samples of El Abuelito brand queso fresco collected from a store where a sick person bought the cheese.
In addition to the CDC’s recommendations to consumers not to eat any of the recalled cheese products by El Abuelito, the agency also recommends anyone who purchased the cheese to dispose of or return it to the store of purchase. The CDC also advises consumers clean refrigerators, containers, and surfaces which may have touched the recalled cheese products, since Listeria can survive in your refrigerator and can easily spread to other foods and surfaces.
Listeria poisoning symptoms usually start one to four weeks after eating the food with the bacteria, but they can start the same day or even up to 70 days after consumption. In some cases, severe illness may result if the bacteria spreads beyond the gut to other areas of the body. The CDC advises speaking with a doctor if you experience any symptoms of headaches, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, convulsions, fever and muscle aches after eating cheese products.