The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a food safety alert for recalled cheeses, yogurts and sour creams potentially linked to a multistate outbreak of listeria that has sickened 26, hospitalized 23 and left two people dead.
Rizo-López Foods issued a voluntary recall on Monday for all cheeses and other dairy products made in its Modesto facility “because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes,” the company said in a press release Feb. 5.
The company said in the release that the recall is being carried out with the knowledge of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which shared the company announcement on its website the following day.
“Based on information shared by the CDC and FDA, [Rizo-López Foods] may be a potential source of illness in an ongoing nationwide Listeria monocytogenes outbreak,” the company said in its press release.
On Tuesday, the CDC said it was continuing to investigate and reported that 26 people had been infected with the outbreak strain of listeria from seven states, with another 23 people hospitalized, and two deaths in California and Texas.
The CDC has been tracking infections with this particular strain of listeria for years, prior to the Rizo-López Foods recall. It has been tied to a number of other recalls from other food manufacturers.
“CDC investigated this outbreak in 2017 and 2021,” the CDC stated Tuesday. “Epidemiologic evidence in previous investigations identified queso fresco and other similar cheeses as a potential source of the outbreak, but there was not enough information to identify a specific brand. CDC reopened the investigation in January 2024 after new illnesses were reported in December 2023 and the outbreak strain was found in a cheese sample from Rizo-López Foods.”
The recalled products were sold nationwide under the following brands and at deli counters: Campesino, Casa Cardenas, Don Francisco, Dos Ranchitos, El Huache, Food City, La Ordena, Rio Grande, Rizo Bros, San Carlos, Santa Maria, Tio Francisco and 365 Whole Foods Market. The products are marked with a wide range of sell-by dates between March 23 and July 31, 2024.
Click here for a full list of recalled product information with additional descriptions, UPC codes, sizes and specific sell-by dates.
According to the FDA, the outbreak of this strain of listeria “includes cases dating back to 2014 and is currently ongoing.”
Rizo-López Foods said in its press release Monday that “consumers should check their refrigerators and freezers for any of the products listed below and dispose of them.”
“Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-833-296-2233, which will be monitored 24 hours a day,” it added.
In a statement provided to ABC News on Thursday night, Edwin Rizo, CEO and owner of Rizo Lopez Foods, Inc., said this was the first time “any product that we manufacture has been linked to a foodborne illness.”
“As soon as we were aware of this, we made the immediate decision to stop production and voluntarily recall all our products manufactured in our facility. We are working hard and diligently to find the root cause of the problem and take corrective actions to prevent it from happening again. The health and well-being of our customers is our top priority,” the statement read.
“We have always aimed to provide the highest quality products and are committed to doing the right thing to protect the health of our consumers,” Rizo’s statement concluded.
The CDC is also urging shoppers who may have purchased the recalled products to throw them away or return them to the place of purchase, adding, “Do not eat any recalled cheeses or dairy products.”
Additionally, the agency has advised people who may have had the recalled items in their home to clean their refrigerators, containers and any surfaces the products may have touched.
On Wednesday, Trader Joe’s announced it was recalling three items: Chicken Enchiladas Verde (sku 58292); Cilantro Salad Dressing (sku 36420) and Elote Chopped Salad Kit (sku 74768) after it discovered those products have cotija cheese from Rizo-López Foods.
Costco issued a recall on Wednesday, asking customers to return two products that contained Rizo-López Food ingredients that were at its stores: the Southwest Chicken Wrap with Sauce from its Service Deli between Oct. 27, 2023 and Feb. 6, 2024., and the Chicken Street Taco Kit from its Service Deli between Jan. 25, and Feb. 6.
Symptoms, side effects of Listeria monocytogenes
According to the CDC, listeria can cause severe illness “when the bacteria spread beyond the gut to other parts of the body” after a person consumes contaminated food. Those at higher risk include pregnant people, those aged 65 or older, or anyone who has a weakened immune system, the CDC says.
“For people who are pregnant, Listeria can cause pregnancy loss, premature birth, or a life-threatening infection in their newborn,” the agency states on its website. “For people who are 65 years or older or who have a weakened immune system, Listeria often results in [severe illness that may lead to] hospitalization and sometimes death.”
Other people can be infected with listeria, but rarely become seriously ill, according to the FDA.
According to the CDC, anyone infected with listeria may experience “mild food poisoning symptoms” such as diarrhea or fever, and many recover without antibiotic treatment.
The CDC has advised people to contact a health care provider if they think they may have eaten contaminated food and are experiencing related symptoms.
“You should seek medical care and tell the doctor about eating possibly contaminated food if you have a fever and other symptoms of possible listeriosis, such as fatigue and muscle aches, within two months after eating possibly contaminated food,” the agency states on its website. “This is especially important if you are pregnant, age 65 or older, or have a weakened immune system.”