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CDC warns of queso fresco linked to listeria outbreak

Health

Recalled queso fresco sold under brand names of El Abuelito, Rio Grande, and Rio Lindo (Photos provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

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CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Cheese made by the brand El Abuelito Cheese Inc. may be contaminated with listeria, investigators warned after an outbreak left 10 people sick across four states.

Federal health officials are cautioning against eating all cheese sold under the El Abuelito brand name, as well as queso fresco products that were recalled earlier this month.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s warning comes after three new illnesses were reported this week. Out of the 10 total people infected with listeria, nine were hospitalized. Four were reported in New York, four in Maryland and one each in Connecticut and Virginia, the CDC said.

Last week, El Abuelito Cheese, of Paterson, New Jersey, recalled all of its queso fresco products due to the potential listeria contamination. Other brands of queso fresco products made at the same facility were also recalled. Those include Rio Grande and Rio Lindo.

The products recalled all have sell-by dates through March 28.

“Investigators are concerned that additional El Abuelito brand cheeses made or handled in the same facility as the queso fresco may be contaminated with Listeria,” the CDC said in a statement. “CDC and FDA are expanding our advice to recommend people not eat, sell, or serve any cheeses sold under the brand name of El Abuelito, in addition to the recalled queso fresco cheeses.”

Connecticut officials identified the outbreak strain in samples of El Abuelito queso fresco collected from a store where a sick person bought the product.

Beyond Connecticut, the products were distributed to Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Health officials recommend throwing away or returning any recalled cheeses, and they’ve offered steps to help clean surfaces and containers that may have touched the products.

Listeria can survive in the refrigerator and spread to other foods or surfaces, the CDC said.

It can cause severe illness when the bacteria spreads beyond the gut to other parts of the body, and pregnant women or those with weakened immune system are particularly at risk.

Queso fresco is a fresh, soft cheese made from pure cow’s milk and not aged for more than a few days. It was originally brought to Mexico from Spain, and has become a staple in Mexican cuisine.

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