NJ Supplier at Center of Listeria Outbreak Expands Recall, Ceases Production

CDC analysis confirmed Paterson, NJ-based El Abeulito Cheese as a source of the current Listeria outbreak.

Rio Lindo Quesco Fresco4

The FDA, along with CDC and state and local partners, are investigating a multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections linked to queso fresco cheeses made by El Abuelito Cheese, Inc. of Paterson, NJ.

As part of this outbreak investigation, the Connecticut Department of Public Health collected product samples of El Abuelito-brand Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses from a store where a sick person bought cheeses. On 2/19/2021, Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) analysis conducted by the Connecticut State Laboratory determined that the Listeria monocytogenes found in the samples is a match to the outbreak strain. On 2/19/2021, El Abuelito Cheese, Inc. of Paterson, NJ recalled all Queso Fresco products with “sell by” dates through 03/28/21. Products include El Abuelito, Rio Grande, and Rio Lindo brand queso frescos, distributed to CT, MD, NC, NJ, NY, PA, and VA. A full list of recalled products is included below. At this time, El Abuelito Cheese, Inc. has ceased production and distribution of all products.

Case Counts

Total Illnesses: 10
Hospitalizations: 9
Deaths: 0
Last Illness Date: 2/9/2021
States with Cases: MD (4), CT (1), NY (4), and VA (1)
Product Distribution*: CT, MD, NC, NJ, NY, PA, VA
*States with confirmed distribution; product could have been distributed further

Out of an abundance of caution, and due to the severity of Listeria infection, the FDA is expanding its warning to include all El Abuelito brand cheeses until more information is known. According to the firm’s websiteExternal Link Disclaimer, this includes queso fresco, Oaxaca cheese, cotija cheese, and crema. The FDA is working with the firm to recall any additional products that could be contaminated and has initiated an on-site inspection of the facility. Updates will be provided as they become available.

Recall Information

Consumers, restaurants, and retailers should not eat, sell, or serve any El Abuelito brand cheeses, including, but not limited to, the recalled El Abuelito cheeses listed below. Additionally they should not eat, sell, or serve any recalled Rio Grande and Rio Lindo brand queso fresco cheeses.   

On 2/19/2021, El Abuelito Cheese recalled all Queso Fresco products within expiration. Products include:

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As of February 11, 2021, the CDC reported seven people infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes in four states.

El Abuelito has ceased production and distribution of the products while the FDA and El Abuelito continue their investigation into the cause of the problem.

As stated by the FDA, on this outbreak investigation, the Connecticut Department of Public Health collected samples of fresh and soft Hispanic-style cheese products from the El Abuelito brand from a store where a sick person purchased cheese. The analysis of the sample showed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in samples of fresh cheese El Abuelito sold in packages of 10 oz, marked as Lot A027 with expiration date 02/26/2021. The samples are currently undergoing whole genome sequencing (WGS) analysis to determine if the Listeria monocytogenes found in these samples matches the outbreak strain. At this time, there is insufficient evidence to determine whether this outbreak is related to El Abuelito Fresh Cheese.

Consumers who have purchased the fresh cheese products listed above are urged not to consume them and to return the product to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions can contact El Abuelito directly Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm EST and Saturday from 8 am to 12 pm EST at (973) 345-3503.

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