El Abuelito, a New Jersey-based manufacturer of Hispanic-style soft cheeses, has expanded a recall to include all Queso Fresco (fresh soft cheese), Quesillo (Oaxaca, string cheese), and Requeson (ricotta) after it was linked to a deadly outbreak of Listeria.
On February 19, a sample of El Abuelito Queso Fresco tested positive for the outbreak strain of Listeria. The cheese was collected from a store in Connecticut where one sick person bought cheese.
As of March 1, the CDC outbreak investigation has identified 11 people who were infected with Listeria, including 10 people who were hospitalized and 1 person who died, since October 2020. Illnesses have been reported in Connecticut, Maryland, New York and Virginia.
The recalled Queso Fresco is labeled with sell-by dates through March 28, 2021, and brand-names like El Abuelito®, Rio Grande® and Rio Lindo®. The El Abuelito brand was sold in 5-pound packages and may have been repackaged by stores, re-labeled, or sold unlabeled.
The recalled Quesillo is labeled with sell-by dates through April 16, 2021, and brand-names like El Abuelito®, El Viejito®, El Paisano®, El Sabrosito®, La Cima®, Quesos Finos®, San Carlos®, and Ideal®. Many of these products were sold in bulk and likely repackaged.
The recalled Requeson is labeled with sell-by dates through March 14, 2021, and brand-names like El Abuelito® and El Viejito®. The products were sold in 12-ounce clamshell containers.
The cheeses were distributed to more than 100 different retail stores in Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. The FDA has provided a list of stores, but additional stores and stores may have received the recalled products.
Health officials are warning that Listeria bacteria can grow at refrigeration temperatures, survive freezing, and easily spread on surfaces to other foods.
Infections with Listeria can also spread beyond the intestines to the brain and other parts of the body, resulting in a life-threatening infection. People at high risk include pregnant women, adults 65 years or older, and people with vulnerable immune systems.