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El Abuelito Queso Fresco Cheese Listeria Outbreak

Marler Clark investigated a multistate outbreak of Listeria likely linked to El Abuelito brand queso fresco cheese in February 2021.

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 were Hispanic, and seven were 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. 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.

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