The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified the specific brands of cheese products that have led to a Listeria outbreak on the East Coast.
Earlier this month, the CDC issued an alert to the public following several reported illnesses in consumers who ate certain varieties of fresh, soft, cheese.
“Don’t eat any Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses (like queso fresco, queso blanco, and queso panela), until we identify a specific type or brand that is making people sick,” the initial alert from the CDC stated.
This week, the CDC identified the specific brands: El Abuelito, Rio Grande, and Rio Lindo.
According to the CDC, all queso fresco products sold under those names should be considered suspect and could potentially be contaminated with Listeria.
On Friday, Jan. 19, El Abuelito Cheese Inc. recalled all queso fresco products made at the same facility with sell-by dates through Sunday, March 28.
“Other El Abuelito brand cheeses made or handled in the same facility as the queso fresco have not yet been recalled, but CDC is concerned they may be contaminated and could make people sick,” officials said. “Investigators are working to identify all cheese products made or handled in that facility that may be contaminated.”
As of Thursday, Feb. 25, there have been 10 reported illnesses, including nine hospitalizations due to the outbreak. Of those 10 illnesses, four were reported in New York, one in Connecticut, with others reported in Virginia and Maryland.
Officials noted that Connecticut officials found the outbreak strain of Listeria in samples of El Abuelito brand queso fresco cheese collected from a store where a sick person bought El Abuelito brand cheeses.
According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service, consumption of food contaminated with L. monocytogenes can cause listeriosis, a serious infection that primarily affects older adults, those with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, and their newborns.
Less commonly, others outside those risk groups are affected.
“Listeriosis can cause fever, muscle aches, headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms.
"An invasive infection spreads beyond the gastrointestinal tract. In pregnant women, the infection can cause miscarriages, stillbirths, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn. In addition, serious and sometimes fatal infections in older adults and persons with weakened immune systems.”
Listeria affects approximately 1,600 Americans each year, killing around 260, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Most people suffer only spiking fever, stomachaches, nausea, diarrhea, and headaches.
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