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Deadly bacteria outbreak linked to cheese from California company after decade of reports

Sacramento Bee - 2/6/2024

A listeria outbreak — linked to cheese, crema and yogurt — has been reported 26 times in 11 states over the last 10 years. Now, investigators know where it came from.

Interviews with infected people and recent listeria findings in both cheese and a production facility confirmed queso fresco and cotija from Rizo-López Foods, based in Modesto, are “making people in this outbreak sick,” the CDC stated. The company voluntarily recalled all its cheeses and dairy products made in its facility on Monday due to potential contamination.

Eight cases have been reported in California as of Monday, the largest number compared to any other state, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The other 18 cases were reported in Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Tennessee, Georgia North Carolina, Florida, Oregon, Nevada and Washington. According to a statement, 23 people have been hospitalized and two people have died — one in California and another in Texas.

The timeline of the outbreak is from 2014 to August.

According to the CDC, recalled products were sold nationwide at deli counters and through brands 365 Whole Foods Market and Rizo Bros, among others.

What you should do next

Recalled queso fresco, cotija and other dairy products should have been pulled from shelves at retail stores.

Do not eat the dairy products. If you find any in your home, throw it away.

Clean your refrigerator, containers and any other surfaces that came in contact with the food because listeria can easily spread.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the CDC has not listed contact information for customers to inquire about the recall.

Listeria symptoms

Listeria symptoms — fever, muscle aches, lethargy, headache, stiff neck, disorientation and balance loss, and seizures — can materialize as early as the same day once you ingest food with listeria, according to the CDC.

Those most vulnerable to the bacterial illness include pregnant people, those 65 and older and individuals with weakened immune systems.

“This is because Listeria is more likely to spread beyond their gut to other parts of their body, resulting in a severe condition known as invasive listeriosis,” the CDC wrote in a statement.

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