According to federal health officials, a dairy and cheese company based in California has been identified as the cause of a ten-year long listeria contamination that resulted in the deaths of two individuals and illnesses in over twenty others.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that lab tests and inspections have shown a connection between the outbreak, first identified in June 2014, and soft cheeses and other dairy products produced by Rizo-Lopez Foods in Modesto, California.
Since that time, a minimum of 26 individuals residing in 11 different states have been affected. This includes one person who passed away in California in 2017 and another in Texas in 2020, according to officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The company issued a recall for over 60 varieties of soft cheeses, yogurt, and sour cream sold under various brand names such as Tio Francisco, Don Francisco, Rizo Bros, and more.
In the past, the CDC looked into instances of foodborne illness linked to queso fresco and similar cheeses in 2017 and 2021. However, there was insufficient evidence to determine the origin.
In December, there were reports of new illnesses which led to the CDC reopening their investigation. The outbreak was linked to a strain of listeria found in a cheese sample from Rizo-Lopez Foods. Federal officials have confirmed that the queso fresco and cotija products made by the company were causing people to become ill.
The products that were called back were sent out to stores and deli counters all over the country, such as El Super, Cardenas Market, Northgate Gonzalez, Superior Groceries, El Rancho, Vallarta, Food City, La Michoacana, and Numero Uno Markets.
Listeria infections can cause serious illness and, in rare cases, death. People who are pregnant, older than 65 or have weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable. Symptoms — like muscle aches, fever and tiredness — usually start within two weeks after eating contaminated foods, but can start earlier or later.
The CDC advised consumers to dispose of these products and thoroughly sanitize their refrigerator, countertops, and other areas that may have come in contact with them. Listeria can withstand refrigeration and can easily spread to other food items and surfaces.
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