CDC investigates listeria outbreak linked to queso fresco, Cotija cheese; 1 death reported in Texas

Rizo-López Foods has recalled all cheeses and other dairy products

Queso fresco. (CDC)

SAN ANTONIO – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating a listeria outbreak linked to queso fresco, cotija cheese and other dairy products.

As of Tuesday morning, 26 people have been infected in seven states. Two deaths have been reported, including one in Texas and one in California. At least one other person in Texas was infected, but the true number of illnesses is likely higher than the number reported.

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The CDC said the outbreak’s source is unknown, but epidemiologic evidence leads to products from Rizo-López Foods.

On Monday, Rizo-López Foods recalled all cheeses and other dairy products made in their facility.

Products from Rizo-López Foods were distributed nationwide and sold at deli counters including El Super, Cardenas Market, Northgate Gonzalez, Superior Groceries, El Rancho, Vallarta, Food City, La Michoacana, and Numero Uno Markets.

The products include queso fresco, Cotija, Oaxaca, ricotta, sour cream and yogurt.

Some of the recalled cheeses from Rizo-López Foods. (CDC)

They were sold under the brand names Tio Francisco, Don Francisco, Rizo Bros, Rio Grande, Food City, El Huache, La Ordena, San Carlos, Campesino, Santa Maria, Dos Ranchitos, Casa Cardenas, and 365 Whole Foods Market.

Click here for a list of all recalled products.

CDC investigated this outbreak in 2017 and 2021 and reopened the investigation in January 2024 due to new reported illnesses. This outbreak includes cases dating back to 2014.

“There was not enough data to identify a source until this most recent investigation,” a news release from the CDC states. “Interviews with sick people and recent Listeria findings in cheese and a production facility show that queso fresco and cotija made by Rizo-López Foods are making people in this outbreak sick.”

People who have a recalled product in their refrigerator should throw it away or return it to the place of purchase. They should also clean their refrigerator, as listeria can survive in the refrigerator and spread to other foods and surfaces.

Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, and tiredness, a headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or seizures.

Symptoms usually start within two weeks after eating contaminated food but may start as early as the same day or as late as 10 weeks after.

Listeria is especially harmful to people who are pregnant, aged 65 or older, or with weakened immune systems, according to the CDC.

About the Author

Rebecca Salinas is an award-winning digital journalist who joined KSAT in 2019. She reports on a variety of topics for KSAT 12 News.

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