2 dead, 23 hospitalized after eating cojita cheese, queso fresco: CDC

2 dead, 23 hospitalized after eating cojita cheese, queso fresco: CDC

(KRON) – Two people have died and 23 others have been hospitalized after eating queso fresco and cojita cheese products, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week. Many products containing these cheeses have been recalled due to a listeria outbreak. Hospital admissions date back to 2014, but the investigation into the outbreak was recently relaunched.

In total, 26 people have become ill in 11 states. The CDC said eight of those cases and one death were in California.


There may be more patients linked to this outbreak, as it typically takes 3 to 4 weeks to determine if an illness is part of an outbreak, according to the CDC. The true number of people affected is believed to be higher than 26 due to lack of testing for Listeria.

Illnesses linked to this outbreak began in 2014, according to the CDC. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigated outbreaks in 2017 and 2021 and relaunched them in January after new illnesses were reported in December 2023.

“WGS (whole genome sequencing) showed that bacteria from patient samples from 2014 to the present are closely related genetically. This suggests that people in this outbreak got sick from the same food,” the CDC said.

The company making the tainted cheese is Rizo-Lopez Foods, based in Modesto, according to the CDC. In January 2024, the Food and Drug Branch of the Hawaii Department of Health conducted routine sampling of Rizzo Lopez cojita cheese and identified the outbreak strain of Listeria. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspected the Rizzo Lopez facility and found the outbreak strain in a container the cheese is kept in before being packaged.

On February 6, all cheese and dairy products produced by Rizzo Lopez were recalled.

A range of products containing these cheeses have been recalled, including several Trader Joe’s products. Amazon Kitchen Chicken Chili Verde Burrito and Fresh Express Sauce! The Ensalada Salad Kit is another product to be recalled.

Listeria is especially dangerous for people who are pregnant, over 65, or have a weakened immune system, according to the CDC. Symptoms can be felt as early as the day the contaminated food is eaten or as late as 10 weeks later.

If you purchased a recalled product, here’s what the CDC recommends:

  • Do not eat any recalled products.
    • Throw it away or return it to where you bought it.
  • Clean the refrigerator, containers, and surfaces that may have been in contact with the recalled products.
    • Listeria It can survive in the refrigerator and can easily spread to other foods and surfaces.
  • Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you develop these symptoms after eating the recalled products:
    • Pregnant people He usually has fever, muscle aches, and fatigue.
    • People who are not pregnant usually experience fever, muscle aches, and fatigue. They may also have headaches, neck stiffness, confusion, loss of balance, or seizures.

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