HEADLINES

Hispanic Style Cheese Causes Illness

Listeria Outbreak Linked to Hispanic-Style Fresh and Soft Cheeses

 

Posted February 12, 2021

 
Fast Facts
  • Illnesses: 7
  • Hospitalizations: 7
  • Deaths: 0
  • States: 4
  • Recall: No
  • Investigation status: Active
 
What People at High Risk Should Do

You are at higher risk for severe Listeria illness if you are pregnant, aged 65 or older, or have a weakened immune system due to certain medical conditions or treatments. If you are not in these groups, you are unlikely to get very sick from Listeria.

  • Don’t eat any Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses (like queso fresco, queso blanco, and queso panela), until we identify a specific type or brand that is making people sick.
  • Call your healthcare provider right away if you have these symptoms after eating Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses:
  • Pregnant people typically experience only fever, fatigue, and muscle aches. However, Listeria infection during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn.
  • People who are not pregnant may experience headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions, in addition to fever and muscle aches.
What Everyone Else Should Do

Make sure the Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses (like queso fresco) you eat have labels that say, “Made with pasteurized milk.”

Be aware that Hispanic-style soft cheeses made from pasteurized milk have caused Listeria outbreaks. Although pasteurization of milk kills Listeria, products made from pasteurized milk can still become contaminated if they are produced in facilities with unsanitary conditions.

What Businesses Should Do

Restaurants and retailers that serve or sell Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses should follow FDA’s safe handling and cleaning adviceexternal icon.

Symptoms of Listeria Infections
  • Listeria can cause severe illness (known as invasive listeriosis) when the bacteria spread beyond the gut to other parts of the body.
  • Pregnant people, adults 65 years or older, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for severe illness.
  • Pregnant people typically experience only fever, fatigue, and muscle aches. However, Listeria infection during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn.
  • People who are not pregnant may experience headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions, in addition to fever and muscle aches.
  • Symptoms of severe illness usually start 1 to 4 weeks after eating food contaminated with Listeria, but may start as early as the same day or as late as 70 days after.
  • Listeria can also cause common food poisoning symptoms, like diarrhea and fever. People who experience these symptoms usually recover without treatment.
  • For more information about Listeria, see the Listeria Questions and Answers page.

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