Rizo-López Foods Inc. has issued a voluntary recall of numerous dairy products, including popular Super Bowl snacks like queso fresco and Cotija cheese, following an investigation that identified them as the source of a multistate Listeria outbreak. This outbreak has resulted in 23 hospitalizations and tragically, two deaths.
The recalled products, distributed nationwide, encompass a range of dairy items such as cheese, yogurt, and sour cream, sold under various brand names including Tio Francisco, Don Francisco, Rizo Bros, and others, according to a food safety alert from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The scale of the outbreak may exceed the reported numbers, as some individuals may recover without seeking medical care and therefore go untested for Listeria. The CDC, in collaboration with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), continues to investigate the outbreak.
Listeria monocytogenes, the bacterium responsible for the outbreak, can cause severe and sometimes fatal infections, particularly in vulnerable populations such as young children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems. Pregnant individuals infected with Listeria are at risk of miscarriages and stillbirths.
Symptoms of Listeria infection include fever, muscle aches, fatigue, headaches, nausea, stomachache, and diarrhea. These symptoms typically manifest within two weeks after consuming contaminated food but can appear as early as the same day or as late as 10 weeks afterward.
The CDC has documented 26 cases of Listeria infection across 11 states between June 2014 and December 2023, with two reported deaths in California and Texas.
Consumers are urged to check their refrigerators and freezers for any recalled products and dispose of them immediately. Additionally, thorough cleaning of affected appliances and surfaces is recommended to prevent cross-contamination, as Listeria can survive and spread in refrigerated environments.
Individuals experiencing symptoms after consuming the recalled dairy products should contact their healthcare provider promptly. Questions can be directed to Rizo-López Foods Inc. at 1-833-296-2233, and adverse events should be reported to the FDA.
While this is not the first recall of Rizo-López Foods Inc. products associated with Listeria, it underscores the importance of stringent food safety measures to prevent further outbreaks and protect public health. Earlier in January, the company recalled its aged Cotija cheese after Listeria was detected by Hawaii state officials.
The CDC emphasizes that recent interviews with affected individuals and facility screenings have pinpointed queso fresco and Cotija cheese manufactured by Rizo-López Foods Inc. as the source of the illnesses, shedding light on the ongoing efforts to contain and address this outbreak.
As investigations continue, consumers are advised to stay informed and take appropriate precautions to safeguard their health and well-being.
In response to the outbreak, Rizo-López Foods Inc. has expressed remorse and emphasized its commitment to food safety. The company has pledged to work closely with regulatory agencies and implement rigorous measures to prevent future incidents.
Public health experts stress the importance of awareness and vigilance, encouraging consumers to stay updated on food recalls and heed guidance from authorities. By taking proactive steps to identify and address potential risks, individuals can help mitigate the spread of foodborne illnesses and protect themselves and their communities.
In addition to individual actions, industry stakeholders play a vital role in ensuring food safety standards are upheld throughout the supply chain. Collaboration between producers, distributors, retailers, and regulatory agencies is essential for maintaining the integrity of the food system and safeguarding public health.
Looking ahead, the Listeria outbreak linked to Rizo-López Foods Inc. serves as a sobering reminder of the ongoing challenges posed by foodborne pathogens. While advancements in technology and regulation have improved safety practices, continued diligence and cooperation are necessary to prevent future outbreaks and uphold consumer confidence in the food industry.