Listeria Outbreak linked to El Abuelito Brand Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses


On February 16, 2021, a public health official in Connecticut discovered Listeria in samples of El Albuelito brand queso fresco cheese. The samples were collected from a store where a sick person bought Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses.

On February 19, investigators found that Listeria bacteria found in the cheese was closely related to the Listeria bacteria found in the victims of this outbreak. They determined that most likely, the ill people were sickened by eating this cheese.

A total of 13 people infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes were reported from 4 states. Illnesses started on dates ranging from October 20, 2020, to March 17, 2021, with 12 illnesses occurring in 2021.

Sick people range in age from <1 to 75 years, with a median age of 52. Twelve people are Hispanic, and seven are female. Twelve people were hospitalized, and one death was reported from Maryland. Four people got sick during their pregnancy, resulting in two pregnancy losses and one premature birth; the fourth woman remained pregnant after recovering.

State and local public health officials interviewed people about the foods they ate in the month before they got sick. Of the eleven people interviewed, eight (73%) reported eating at least one type of Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheese. Among the eight people, seven (88%) reported eating queso fresco-four specifically reported brands made by El Abuelito Cheese Inc., including El Abuelito brand and Rio Grande brand.

El Abuelito Cheese, Inc. has recalled all queso fresco products made in the same facility with sell dates through 03/28/21. The products were sold under brand names of El Abuelito, Rio Grande, and Rio Lindo. On February 27, El Abuelito Cheese Inc., expanded their recall to include all quesillo and requeson products that were made or packed at the same facility as the contaminated queso fresco.

What to know about Listeria?

Listeria bacteria can spread easily to other foods and surfaces. The bacteria in a contaminated deli product may spread to other deli meats and cheeses in shared display cases or equipment at deli counters. A traceback investigation is to determine if there is a specific type of deli meat or a common supplier linked to illness.

People who are at higher risk of getting sick from Listeria should avoid eating deli meats, unless they are heated to an internal temperature of 165°F or until steaming hot just before serving.

Symptoms of Listeria monocytogenes usually begin one to four weeks after eating the contaminated food. However, those who become ill have reported symptoms as early as one to seventy days after consuming the tainted food.

What are symptoms of Listeria monocytogenes?

  • Fever
  • Muscle ache
  • Nausea or diarrhea

What are the symptoms if the infection spreads to the nervous system?

  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Confusion
  • Loss of balance
  • Convulsions

Pregnant women experience mild, flu-like symptoms. However, Listeria infection during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, infection of the newborn, or stillbirth.

The Marler Clark Listeria lawyers have unmatched experience representing victims of Listeria. Our Listeria lawyers have represented thousands of victims of notable Listeria outbreaks such as the 2011 Jensen Farms Listeria outbreak where over 33 people died, the 2010 Sangar Fresh Cut Produce Listeria outbreak, the 2007 Whittier Farms Listeria outbreak, the 2012 Marte brand Fescolina ricotta salata cheese Listeria outbreak, the 2016 Dole Lettuce Listeria outbreak and the 2017 Vulto Creamery Listeria outbreak. We are presently assisting in a Listeria outbreak in South Africa that sickened over 1,000 and killed over 200.

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