Federal officials have broadened a warning about soft cheese linked to a Listeria monocytogenes outbreak. The warning now includes all cheese sold under the brand name El Abuelito.

“Out of an abundance of caution, and due to the severity of Listeria infection, the FDA is expanding its warning to include all El Abuelito brand cheeses until more information is known. According to the firm’s website, this includes queso fresco, Oaxaca cheese, cotija cheese, and crema. The FDA is working with the firm to recall any additional products that could be contaminated and has initiated an on-site inspection of the facility,” according to the updated outbreak warning posted by the Food and Drug Administration. 

“Consumers, restaurants, and retailers should not eat, sell, or serve any El Abuelito brand cheeses, including, but not limited to, the recalled El Abuelito cheeses listed below. Additionally they should not eat, sell, or serve any recalled Rio Grande and Rio Lindo brand queso fresco cheeses.”

The FDA recommends that anyone who purchased or received any El Abuelito brand cheeses or recalled products use extra vigilance in cleaning and sanitizing any surfaces and containers that may have come in contact with these products to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. Listeria can survive in refrigerated temperatures and can easily spread to other foods and surfaces.

The company reports it has ceased production. It’s recall notice says implicated products include El Abuelito, Rio Grande, and Rio Lindo brand queso frescos, distributed to Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. To view photos of the recalled cheese, please click here.

As of the most recent update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 people have been confirmed infected with the outbreak strain. Nine of them have been so sick they required hospitalization. Patients are spread across five states. The most recent person to be confirmed infected became sick on Feb. 9. There can be a delay of a month or more in the infection testing and reporting process before patients are added to outbreak totals.

About Listeria infections
Food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes may not look or smell spoiled but can still cause serious and sometimes life-threatening infections. Anyone who has eaten any recalled cheese and developed symptoms of Listeria infection should seek medical treatment and tell their doctors about the possible Listeria exposure.

Also, anyone who has eaten any of the recalled products should monitor themselves for symptoms during the coming weeks because it can take up to 70 days after exposure to Listeria for symptoms of listeriosis to develop.

Symptoms of Listeria infection can include vomiting, nausea, persistent fever, muscle aches, severe headache, and neck stiffness. Specific laboratory tests are required to diagnose Listeria infections, which can mimic other illnesses.

Pregnant women, the elderly, young children, and people such as cancer patients who have weakened immune systems are particularly at risk of serious illnesses, life-threatening infections, and other complications. Although infected pregnant women may experience only mild, flu-like symptoms, their infections can lead to premature delivery, infection of the newborn, or even stillbirth.

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