Rizo-López Recalls Dairy Products Due to Listeria Contamination

The recall follows one made on Jan. 11 in which 344 cases of aged cotija Mexican grating cheese were also recalled for potential listeria contamination.
Rizo-López Recalls Dairy Products Due to Listeria Contamination
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Amie Dahnke
2/7/2024
Updated:
2/7/2024
0:00

Rizo-López Foods Inc., a Modesto, California, company, has issued a voluntary recall on over 50 cheese, yogurt, and sour cream products sold under 13 different brand names, including 365 Whole Foods Market, due to possible listeria contamination.

The recall follows one made on Jan. 11 in which 344 cases of aged cotija Mexican grating cheese were also recalled for potential listeria contamination.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported that the products are distributed nationwide through Rizo-López Foods, Inc., and sold at retail deli counters such as El Super, Cardenas Market, Northgate Gonzalez, Superior Groceries, El Rancho, Vallarta, Food City, La Michoacana, and Numero Uno Markets.

The recalled cheese, yogurt, and sour cream products are sold under the brand names Tio Francisco, Don Francisco, Rizo Bros, Rio Grande, Food City, El Huache, La Ordena, San Carlos, Campesino, Santa Maria, Casa Cardenas, and 365 Whole Foods Market, reported the FDA.

To date, the outbreak has reached 11 states. Twenty-six people have gotten sick with listeriosis, with 23 people requiring hospitalization. Two have died.

The listeria outbreak is an ongoing saga with Rizo-López Foods Inc. that dates back to 2014. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigated outbreaks in 2017 and 2021 but lacked epidemiologic evidence to link the listeria outbreak to a specific brand, the FDA said.

The recent recall occurred after the Hawaii State Department of Health’s Food and Drug Branch found listeria in a Rizo Bros Aged Cotija cheese sample. The finding enabled the FDA and CDC to reopen a more recent investigation from December 2023 of the dairy manufacturer’s processing plant. The January investigation showed the strain of listeria was the same one that made people sick in the past.

In December 2023, after multiple got sick with listeriosis, the CDC interviewed 22 people about their consumption of Rizo-López Foods Inc. cheese products. Seventy-three percent reported eating queso fresco, cotija, or other similar cheeses. Of those who remembered specific brands, three who were ill from listeria between 2014 and 2022 reported eating Don Francisco, one of Rizo-López Foods Inc.’s brands.

The FDA is continuing its investigation of Rizo-López Foods Inc.’s manufacturing plant.

The FDA advises consumers to check their refrigerators and freezers for any products on the recall list and dispose of them. Consumers with any questions can call Rizo-López Foods at 1-833-296-2233; the phone number will be monitored 24 hours a day.

Listeria Can Be Deadly for Vulnerable Populations

Listeria monocytogenes is a bacteria that can cause severe and sometimes fatal infections in vulnerable populations, including children, frail or older people, and those with weakened immune systems. Healthy individuals may suffer short-term symptoms, including high fever, severe headache, muscle stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Symptoms can begin as quickly as the same day the product was consumed or may take as long as 10 weeks, the FDA reports. Listeria infections can cause miscarriages, premature birth, and stillbirth in pregnant women.

Individuals with symptoms of listeriosis should contact their health care provider to report their issues and receive care, the FDA said.

The CDC reports that unpasteurized cheeses like the queso fresco involved in the Rizo-López Foods recall are a common source of listeria outbreaks. The soft cheeses are moister and have low salt content and low acidity, supporting a growth environment for listeria. Additionally, soft cheeses made in unsanitary conditions with unpasteurized milk are at a higher risk of contamination, the CDC notes.

Other recent multistate listeria outbreaks due to soft cheeses include a 2022 outbreak linked to brie and camembert cheese made by Old Europe Cheese, a 2021 outbreak linked to queso fresco made by El Abuelito, a 2017 outbreak linked to soft cheese made by Vulto Creamery, and a 2015 outbreak linked to soft cheese distributed by Karoun Dairies.

Amie Dahnke is a freelance writer and editor residing in California. She has covered community journalism and health care news for nearly a decade, winning a California Newspaper Publishers Award for her work.
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