September 25, 2021

El Abuelito Cheese Listeria Outbreak Ends With 13 Sick, 1 Death

The El Abuelito cheese Listeria monocytogenes outbreak has ended with 13 people sick, 12 hospitalized, and one death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The patients live in four states on the east coast.

El Abuelito Cheese Listeria Outbreak Ends With 13 Sick, 1 Death

The case count by state is Connecticut (1), Maryland (5), New York (4), and Virginia (3). Illness onset dates range from October 20, 2020 to March 17, 2021. Twelve of the illnesses occurred in 2021. The patient age range is from less than 1 to 75 years. Twelve of the patients were Hispanic. One death was reported from Maryland. Four people got sick during their pregnancy, resulting in two pregnancy losses and one premature birth; the fourth person remained pregnant after recovering.

State and local public health officials interviewed the patients about the foods they ate in the month before they got sick. Of the 11 people interviewed, eight said they ate Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses. Among those eight people, seven said they ate queso fresco, and four specifically reported eating brands made by El Abuelito Cheese, including the Rio Grande brand.

Whole genome sequencing conducted on the patient isolates showed that bacteria from sick people’s samples were closely related genetically. That means that they likely got sick from eating the same food.

Officials in Connecticut collected samples of El Abuelito cheese from a store where a sick person shopped. On February 19, 2021, whole genome sequencing showed that the Listeria bacteria in El Abuelito brand queso fresco was closely related to the Listeria bacteria from patent samples. The means that people likely got sick from eating this cheese.

On February 19 2021, El Abuelito Cheese recalled all queso fresco products made at their facility. They also stopped producing and distributing products. On February 27, 2021, El Abuelito Cheese expanded their recall to include all quesillo and Requeson products that were made or packaged at the same facility as the contaminated queso fresco.

The CDC recommends that no one should eat soft cheeses like queso fresco unless they are labeled “made with pasteurized milk.” This advice is especially important if you are pregnant, over the age of 65, or have a weakened immune system or chronic health condition. But it’s also important to note that Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses made with pasteurized milk have caused Listeria monocytogenes outbreaks, including this one. These products can still be contaminated with pathogenic bacteria if they are made in facilities under unsanitary conditions.

Symptoms of listeriosis, the illness caused by this pathogen, can take up to 70 days to appear. Those symptoms include a high fever, stiff neck, severe headache, muscle aches, nausea, and diarrhea. Pregnant women can suffer miscarriage and stillbirth, even though their illness seems mild. If you ate any of the recalled cheeses and have been ill with these symptoms, see your doctor. You may be part of this El Abuelito cheese Listeria monocytogenes outbreak.

The Food Poisoning Attorneys At Pritzker Hageman 1-888-377-8900

If you or a loved one have been sickened with a Listeria monocytogenes infection after eating recalled El Abuelito cheeses, please contact our experienced lawyers for help at 1-888-377-8900 or 612-338-0202.

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