Cheese fans: check your fridge. The El Abuelito Cheese company of Paterson, NJ is recalling all of its queso fresco, quesillo, and requeson products because of possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Here’s what to know about the recall, including the specific products involved, where the products were sold, and what to do if you’ve purchased them.
Which cheeses are involved in the recall?
There are three types of cheese—each manufactured by El Abuelito Cheese—included in the recall:
- Queso fresco (fresh, soft cheese) with sell-by dates through March 28, 2021
- Quesillo (Oaxaca, string cheese) with sell-by dates through April 16, 2021
- Requeson (ricotta) with sell-by dates through March 14, 2021
By Feb. 26, the contaminated cheeses had been targeted as the cause for 10 illnesses and nine hospitalizations across four states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
While the products were all manufactured in the same plant, they are sold under the “El Abuelito Cheese” brand in Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, and are distributed as “Rio Grande Food Products” in Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland, and “Rio Lindo” cheeses in North Carolina and Maryland.
According to the FDA, the cheeses are also distributed under the following brands (though they did not specify where these varieties are distributed and sold): Viejito, El Paisano, El Sabrosito, La Cima, Quesos Finos, San Carlos, and Ideal Brands.
The cheeses were sold in supermarkets, wholesale, and retail stores. As of Feb. 27, the FDA has reason to believe that multiple retail locations across five states (Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania) received El Abuelito brand products included in the recall. You can see the full list of establishments here.
The FDA cautions that this list may not include all retail establishments that have received the recalled product, or may include retail establishments that did not actually receive the recalled product. As a result, it’s important to use the product-specific identification information—including UPC codes—available here and here. Also, the FDA has not provided a list of potential establishments where El Abuelito cheese were sold under different brand names.
What is Listeria monocytogenes?
Listeria monocytogenes is no joke. The organism can cause a variety of unpleasant (though short-term) symptoms in otherwise healthy people, including high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
But it can also can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or older people, and others with weakened immune systems. It’s especially dangerous for pregnant people, the FDA says, as a Listeria monocytogenes infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths.
What to do if you’ve purchased the recalled cheese
If you have purchased any of the cheeses above, obviously don’t eat them. Instead, return the products to their place of purchase for a full refund. In addition, the FDA recommends that anyone who purchased or received any of the recalled cheeses be extra vigilant in cleaning and sanitizing surfaces and containers that may have come in contact with these products, in order to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. This is especially important because listeria can survive in refrigerated temperatures and can easily spread to other foods and surfaces.
Consumers with questions may contact El Abuelito Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST, and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. EST at (973) 345-3503.