Cheese Recalled After Two Deaths Are Linked

( – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has expanded a cheese product recall after a listeria outbreak linked to two deaths. The agency added three products by different companies to a list of recalls containing potentially contaminated queso fresco and cotija cheeses produced by California manufacturer Rizo-López Foods. The extension came days after a voluntary recall of salad kits, dressings, and taco meals thought to contain the same contaminated cheeses.

Rizo-López Foods recalled its dairy products on February 5, when the FDA said it “may be a potential source of illness in an ongoing nationwide listeria monocytogenes outbreak.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced data showing that the outbreak is connected to 26 cases of illness, 23 hospitalizations, and two deaths across 11 states. Most of these illnesses have occurred in California.

According to the CDC, listeria, which causes listeriosis, is a severe condition that usually results from ingesting food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. It most intensely affects pregnant women, infants, people aged over 65, and those with compromised immune systems. The CDC states that listeria is the third leading cause of death from food-related illnesses in the United States and kills around 260 people per year. It affects approximately 1,600 people annually, and most cases involving vulnerable groups – around 87% – are serious enough to require hospitalization.

Infection during pregnancy is particularly dangerous, the CDC warns, and results in fetus fatalities 20% of the time. Symptoms for pregnant women include fever, muscle ache, and fatigue, and these usually begin to show around 24 hours after the affected food is ingested.

The CDC states that outbreaks are common, with the last fatal one occurring just last year. In March 2023, one death and 13 hospitalizations were caused by listeria illnesses suffered by consumers of cold cuts, lunch meats, hot dogs, and pâtés. The outbreak strain was traced to mortadella, ham, and salami sliced at a deli in Brooklyn, New York.

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