Listeria Outbreak linked to El Albuelito Brand Queso Fresco Cheese, Seven Hospitalized

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 is 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.

As of February 19, 2021, ten people infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported from four states – Connecticut, Maryland, New York and Virginia. Illnesses started on dates ranging from October 20, 2020, to February 9, 2021, with nine recent illnesses in 2021.

It is likely that there are more victims of this outbreak and that it may involve more states. The true number of sick people in an outbreak is likely higher than the number reported because some people recover without medical care and are not tested for Listeria. Usually, it takes 2 to 4 weeks to determine if a sick person is part of an outbreak, therefore, additional illnesses may not yet be reported.

Sick people range in age from <1 to 75 years, with a median age of 54. Nine people are Hispanic, and six are female. Two of those ill are pregnancy-associated. All nine people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported at this time.

State and local public health officials are interviewing people about the foods they ate in the month before they got sick. Of the four people interviewed, three reported eating at least one type of Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheese and all three reported eating queso fresco. Public health officials are continuing to interview sick people to try to identify and confirm a specific type or brand of cheese.

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. At this time, El Abuelito Cheese has stopped producing and distributing all products.

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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