A grated pile of cotiija cheese is seen on a cutting board.Share on Pinterest
A multistate outbreak due to listeria bacteria has been detected by the CDC. Marcos Elihu Castillo Ramirez/Getty Images
  • Cheese products produced by Rizo-López Foods are facing a national voluntary recall after a listeria outbreak.
  • The recall affects 61 items and connected cases date as far back as 2014.
  • This week outlets including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Costco also voluntarily recalled products containing these cheeses.
  • The FDA and CDC are currently investigating the cause of this outbreak.

A listeria outbreak that has led to 26 illnesses has been connected to cotija, queso fresco cheese, and other dairy products.

The outbreak has been linked to products made by Rizo-López Foods.

As a result of the outbreak, Rizo-López Foods has chosen to recall all dairy products and products made with recalled dairy products in their facility and to temporarily pause production and distribution of the affected products.

The products were sold at multiple stores including Costco, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods.

The news comes after the state of Hawaii detected the bacteria that causes the listeriosis—Listeria monocytogenes— in one of their products last month.

The 26 illness cases the FDA and CDC have identified so far are spread across 11 states and have led to 23 hospitalizations and 2 deaths. The two organizations had investigated this outbreak on two previous occasions, in 2017 and 2022, but were previously unable to identify the brand associated with the outbreak. The first reported cases date back to 2014.

For their part, Rizo-López Foods posted a recall notice. They note that customers are encouraged to get rid of any affected products they may have and that the company has a phone line concerned people can call.

A full list of the recalled products can be found on the FDA website.

“Consumers should check their refrigerators and freezers for any of the products listed below and dispose of them. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-833-296-2233, which will be monitored 24 hours a day,” officials from Rizo-López Foods wrote in their recall notice.

In addition, the FDA’s guidance is to follow handling and cleaning best practices and to call your healthcare team if you find that you are displaying symptoms of the infection called listeriosis.

In addition to the cheese, products that contain the cheese are being voluntarily recalled from Trader Joe’s and Costco.

The products recalled from Trader Joe’s include the following:

  • Trader Joe’s Chicken Enchiladas Verde (SKU 58292)
  • Trader Joe’s Cilantro Salad Dressing (SKU 36420)
  • Trader Joe’s Elote Chopped Salad Kit (SKU 74768)
  • Trader Joe’s Southwest Salad (SKU 56077)

The products recalled from Costco include the following:

Southwest Wrap (Item #29433)

Chicken Street Taco Kit (Item #11545)

Rojo’s 6 Layer Dip (Item #1345308)

Don Pancho Cilantro Lime Crema (Item #1341779)

Don Pancho Crema Trio (Item #1796365)

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist and professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, says that an outbreak like this is not unprecedented.

“The first thought I had was that I’d seen this movie before. Mexican-style cheese, particularly queso fresco, has been associated with listeria outbreak outbreaks in the past,” Schaffner said. “And so here we see it again, and the Food and Drug Administration will have to investigate the company to see where the breach in sanitary precautions took place.”

He says that the primary reason that listeria will have been able to develop is a lack of pasteurization. Those who are pregnant, young children, those older than 65, and also those who already have a weaker immune system, are the people most at risk from a listeria infection. Pregnant people who contract the bacteria face the risk of a loss of their pregnancy as well as birth complications.

Symptoms of listeriosis include fever, muscle aches, and tiredness. These symptoms often appear within two weeks of ingesting the contaminated food. The onset of symptoms can occur within the same day or up to ten weeks later. The treatment is a course of antibiotics.

Dr. Patrick Penfield, PhD, a professor of practice in supply chain management at Syracuse University, says that one of the most concerning aspects about this recall is that cases were detected years prior to the source being detected.

“From a supply chain standpoint, it’s somewhat devastating to a facility. There’s just a whole bunch of things that happen and this one is very disturbing because it lasted for so long. So that just tells you that listeria is very difficult to get rid of out of a facility,” Penfield said.

Schaffner says that if you have any contaminated products it is particularly important to throw away the products since listeria does not need a warm environment to reproduce.

“This is a bacteria that can mold apply in the cold,” Schaffner said. “Even if it’s in the refrigerator, in a food product, it can very slowly multiply and with time actually make the product even more dangerous.”

After this recall, Rizo-López Foods will have to destroy all of the affected products that they still have in their possession, undergo a series of inspections, fully clean the facility, and reflect on their current manufacturing process. Penfield says that there are multiple steps that the company will have to go through in order to get back on track from both a food safety and reputational management perspective.

“If you are in food processing, you have to be diligent, and you have to be focused, and you have to make sure that this stuff doesn’t happen…The food supply chain is so fragmented, and that’s the dilemma that the FDA has [and] is trying to track this stuff down” Penfield said.

A listeria outbreak that has led to 26 illnesses has been connected to a cotija and queso fresco cheese. Rizo-López Foods has chosen to voluntarily recall all products made in their facility and to temporarily pause production and distribution of the affected products.

In addition, products sold at other locations including Trader Joe’s and Costco are also being recalled because they contain these cheese products.