CDC Links Listeria Outbreak to Queso Fresco

Say adios to a certain brand of the soft cheese for now.

Like any other cheese, Queso Fresco can make everything better — at least until it sends you to the hospital with a case of listeria, that is.

According to a new food safety alert issued by the CDC, a particularly bad batch of the soft white cheese popular in Latin American cooking is the subject of a voluntary recall initiated by El Abuelito Cheese Inc. Specifically, queso fresco sold with the brand names El Abuelito, Rio Grande, and Rio Lindo, have been identified as the source of a small listeria outbreak by Connecticut health officials. Queso Fresco from those brands with a sell-by date through March 28, 2021 are subject to the recall.

While CDC data shows there are only 10 reported illnesses associated with this listeria outbreak, nine of them have required hospitalizations. While pregnant women, newborns, and the immunocompromised are particularly vulnerable when it comes to listeria, this particular outbreak has thankfully not resulted in any deaths as of February 24, 2021. For the most part, listeria presents patients with the same sort of fever and other unpleasant symptoms common with other foodborne illnesses.

queso fresco cheese
Juanmonino via Getty Images

For the most part, distribution of the recalled cheese was limited to the northeast and mid-Atlantic. Consumers in Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York should avoid El-Abuelito Cheeses. The Rio Grande in question was sent to Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina, with the Rio Lindo products going to the latter two of those three states.

It's also possible that other El Abuelito brand cheeses produced or otherwise handled in the same facility as the queso fresco in question may have been contaminated, though a recall has not yet been issued. Investigators are in the process of determining whether other cheese coming out of the facility may have come into contact with listeria, so consumers may want to exercise a degree of caution in the meantime.

This recall news may mess with your taco Tuesday plans, but coming down with a case of listeria will cramp your style in some much worse ways. So when it comes to the brands of queso fresco subject to the recall, check the expiration date, throw it out, and opt for some shredded cheese in the meantime instead.

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