June 16, 2024

Deadly Listeria Outbreak Linked to Rizo-López Queso, Cotija

A deadly Listeria outbreak is linked to Rizo-López Queso Fresco and Cotija cheese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Eleven states are included in this outbreak. As a result of this investigation, Rizo-Lopez Foods recalled all cheeses and other dairy products made in their facility, including cheeses, cream, and yogurt.

Deadly Listeria Outbreak Linked to Rizo-López Queso, Cotija

The case count by state is: Arizona (4), California (8), Colorado (4), Florida (1), Georgia (1), Nevada (1), North Carolina (1), Oregon (1), Tennessee (2), Texas (2), and Washington (1). The patient age range is from less than one to 88 years. Illness onset dates range from June 15, 2014 to December 10, 2023. Twenty three of the patients have been hospitalized. And the people who died lived in California and Texas.

This outbreak was investigated in 2017 and 2021. At the time, officials identified queso fresco and other similar cheeses as a potential source, but they could not collect enough information to identify a specific brand. The investigation was reopened in January 2024 after new illnesses were reported in December 2023. The outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes was found in a cheese sample from Rizo-López Foods.

In interviews, 22 people told officials about the foods they ate the month before they got sick. Of the 22 people interviewed, 16, or 73%, said they ate queso fresco, cotija, or other similar cheeses. Among those who remembered specific brands of the cheese they ate, three who got sick between 2014 and 2022 reported Don Francisco brand queso fresco or cotija. Don Francisco is one of the brands of the recalled cheese.

Whole genome sequencing conducted on patient isolates found that the sick people’s samples from 2014 to the present are closely related genetically. That means they likely got sick from eating the same food.


Food Safety Lawyer and Food Poisoning Bulletin Publisher Eric Hageman

Noted food safety attorney Eric Hageman, who has successfully represented many clients in Listeria monocytogenes outbreak lawsuits and wrongful death lawsuits, said, “No one should get sick just because they bought a certain type of cheese. We hope that this outbreak ends now that the CDC and FDA have identified a brand.”

In January 2024, the Hawaii State Department of Health’s Food and Drug Branch collected a sample of aged cotija cheese product made by Rizo-López Foods during routine sampling. Testing found the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes in the product. And the FDA conducted inspections at the Rizo-López Foods facility and collected food and environmental samples. The outbreak strain of Listeria was found on a container where cheeses are kept before they are packaged.

On January 11, 2024, Rizo-López Foods recalled the aged cotija cheese product. And on February 6, 2024, Rizo-López Foods recalled all cheese and dairy products made in their facility. The company has also stopped producing and distributing these products while the investigation is ongoing. Many secondary recalls for products made with Rizo Lopez dairy produces have been issued.

If you ate any of these recalled products and have been ill with the symptoms of listeriosis, see your doctor. You may be part of this deadly Listeria outbreak.

Attorneys at the Pritzker Hageman Food Safety Law Firm

If you or a loved one have been sickened with a Listeria monocytogenes food poisoning infection, please contact our experienced attorneys for help with a possible lawsuit at 1-888-377-8900 or text us at 612-261-0856. Our firm represents clients in lawsuits against grocery stores, restaurants, and food processors, and families in wrongful death cases.

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