Deadly Listeria Outbreak Linked to California Company’s Dairy Products

A California cheese and dairy company is the source of a decade-long listeria food poisoning outbreak and killed two people and sickened more than two dozenas reported this Tuesday by federal health officials.

New laboratory and inspection tests linked soft cheeses and other dairy products made by Rizo-López Foods of Modesto, California, to the outbreak. The first cases were detected in June 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, in Spanish).

Since then, at least 26 people in 11 states have fallen ill. They include one person who died in California in 2017 and another who died in Texas in 2020, CDC officials said.

Cheese brands recalled by the CDC.CDC via AP/NBC News

This Monday the company recalled more than 60 soft cheeses, yogurt and sour cream sold under the brands Tío Francisco, Don Francisco, Rizo Bros, Río Grande, Food City, El Huache, La Ordena, San Carlos, Campesino, Santa María, Dos Ranchitos , Casa Cárdenas and 365 Whole Foods Market.

The CDC previously investigated cases of food poisoning linked to fresh cheese and other similar types in 2017 and 2021, but there was not enough evidence to identify a source.

New cases were reported in December, prompting the CDC to reopen the investigation. The listeria strain linked to the outbreak was found in a sample of cheese from Rizo-López Foods. Federal authorities confirmed that fresh cheese and cotija manufactured by the company were causing the illness.

The recalled products were distributed nationwide at stores and test counters, including El Super, Cárdenas Market, Northgate González, Superior Groceries, El Rancho, Vallarta, Food City, La Michoacana, and Numero Uno Markets.

Listeria infections can cause serious symptoms and, in rare cases, death. Pregnant women, those over 65 years of age and people with weak immune systems are the most vulnerable. Symptoms—such as muscle aches, fever, and fatigue—usually appear within two weeks of eating contaminated food, but may begin sooner or later.

The CDC notes that consumers who have these products They should be discarded and the refrigerator thoroughly cleaned., kitchen bars and other contact places. Listeria can survive in the refrigerator and contaminate other foods and surfaces.