Consumers in another state, Rhode Island, should check their homes for certain Queso-style cheeses that have been tied to a deadly outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections.

The Food and Drug Administration got word today about the distribution in Rhode Island, which is the 26th state to be confirmed as having received the recalled cheeses, according to a notice issued this afternoon. The CDC’s most recent update, on March 1, said there have been 11 illnesses confirmed across four states with one death.

There is heightened concern that consumers may have these cheeses in their homes because of their long shelf life. All of the recalled cheeses have dates up to and including March 28.

Several varieties and brands of cheeses made by El Abuelito Cheese Inc. are involved in the recalls and outbreak investigation. On Feb. 19 the company officials announced an initial recall of products, and on Feb. 27 they announced the expanded recall to cover additional products that are manufactured or handled in the same facility as the queso fresco products linked to this outbreak.

In today’s investigation update the FDA reminded consumers, restaurants and retailers to not eat, sell or serve any recalled Queso Fresco, Quesillo (Oaxaca, string cheese), or Requeson (ricotta) cheeses.

Recalled brands by cheese type are:

  • Queso Fresco: El Abuelito, Rio Grande, Rio Lindo
  • Quesillo: El Abuelito, El Viejito, El Paisano, El Sabrosito, La Cima, Quesos Finos, San Carlos, Ideal Brands
  • Requeson: El Abuelito, El Viejito

Entities in the following states received recalled cheese products: Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The CDC reports that four sick people have been confirmed in each of New York and Maryland. One patient is in Connecticut and two are in Virginia. The first illness began in Oct. 2020 and the most recent in mid-February.

“Recent illnesses may not yet be reported as it usually takes 2 to 4 weeks to determine if a sick person is part of an outbreak. The true number of sick people in an outbreak is also likely higher than the number reported,” according to the CDC outbreak report.

The FDA has posted partial retail distribution lists as part of its traceback efforts.

Retail Establishments that Received El Abuelito Brand Queso Fresco, Quesillo, and Requeson Products are listed here.

Retail Establishments that Received Private Label Brand Queso Fresco (Rio Grande, Rio Lindo), Quesillo (El Viejito, El Paisano, El Sabrosito, La Cima, Quesos Finos, San Carlos, Ideal Brands), and Requeson Products (El Viejito) are listed here.

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 products 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.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)