Your Super Bowl menu may need a do-over. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a serious warning to consumers: “Do not eat, sell or serve recalled Rizo-López Foods dairy products” as it investigates a decadelong outbreak of listeria monocytogenes.
The company is recalling dozens of products, including popular queso fresco and cotija cheese.
They have been linked to 26 reported illnesses, 23 hospitalizations and two deaths in a listeria outbreak that has spanned from June 15, 2014, to Dec. 10, 2023, per the FDA. Listeria cases believed to be linked to the Modesto, California, company’s products have been reported in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is working with the FDA on the investigation, said the outbreak is likely much larger than the numbers listed. Some infected people probably recovered without medical care and many people who become sick are never tested.
The recall includes all “sell by” dates of cheese, yogurt and sour cream (crema) sold under the brand names Tio Francisco, Don Francisco, Rizo Bros, Rio Grande, Food City, El Huache, La Ordena, San Carlos, Campesino, Santa Maria, Dos Ranchitos, Casa Cardenas and 365 Whole Foods Market.
The products were sold nationwide. The massive list of individual products is online on the FDA site and includes product pictures.
According to CNN, “Although the listeria outbreak has been investigated twice before, once in 2017 and again in 2021, the CDC said it did not have enough data until now to identify the source of the outbreak. Recent interviews with sick people and facility screenings led the CDC to identify queso fresco and Cotija cheese made by Rizo-López Foods as the source of the illnesses.”
The article added, “This is not the first recall of Rizo-López Foods Inc. products related to listeria, according to the CDC investigation. The company recalled its aged Cotija cheese in early January after Hawaii state officials found listeria in the product.”
About listeria monocytogenes
Listeria monocytogenes is a bacterium that can cause infection. Symptoms can start the same day, but it usually takes a couple of weeks — and sometimes as many as 10 weeks. Among mild symptoms are fever, muscle aches, nausea, tiredness, vomiting and diarrhea.
More severe symptoms of listeriosis include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and seizures.
Those most apt to be sickened by listeria are pregnant women and newborns, adults 65 and older and those with weakened immune systems. Others can be infected but are unlikely to have severe symptoms.
Check your fridge
The FDA is telling all consumers to check their refrigerators and freezers for any recalled products and throw them out. “If you froze a product without the original packaging and can’t tell if it is part of the recall, throw it away.”
The agency notes that listeria can survive in a refrigerator and easily spreads to other foods and surfaces. If recalled products are found, it’s important to clean the refrigerator and any surfaces the product may have touched.
Rizo-López Foods Inc. can be reached at 1-833-296-2233. Adverse events should be reported to the FDA.