Marler Clark, Inc., The Food Safety Law Firm, is investigating the Rizo Lopez Foods cheese Listeria outbreak that has sickened 26 people in 11 states, including deaths in California and Texas.
According to the CDC and FDA, as of February 12, 2024, a total of 26 people infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria have been reported from 11 states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington. Two deaths have been reported, one from California and one from Texas. The FDA and CDC, in collaboration with state and local partners, have linked this multi-year, multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections linked to queso fresco and cotija cheeses manufactured by Rizo Lopez Foods, Inc., of Modesto, California. This outbreak includes cases dating back to 2014 and is currently ongoing. CDC investigated this outbreak in 2017 and 2021.
A sample of Rizo Bros Aged Cotija tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes during sampling conducted by the Hawaii State Department of Health’s Food and Drug Branch in January 2024. In response to that finding, Rizo Lopez Foods voluntarily recalled one batch of Rizo Bros Aged Cotija Mexican Grating Cheese (8oz) on January 11, 2024. CDC and FDA reopened the investigation in January 2024 after new illnesses were reported in December 2023 and whole genome sequencing (WGS) analysis of the cotija cheese sample showed that it is the same strain of Listeria that is causing illnesses in this outbreak. FDA initiated an on-site inspection at Rizo Lopez Foods. FDA’s inspection is still ongoing; however, an environmental sample collected during that inspection tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes. WGS analysis of that sample showed that it is the same strain of Listeria that is causing illnesses in this outbreak.
In response to this investigation, Rizo Lopez Foods has recalled all sell by dates of its dairy products. The recalled products include cheese, yogurt, and sour cream sold under the brand names Bright Farms, Campesino, Casa Cardenas, Dole, Don Francisco, Don Pancho, Dos Ranchitos, El Huache, Food City, Fresh Express, H-E-B, La Ordena, Marketside, President’s Choice, Ready Pac Bistro, Rio Grande, Rizo Bros, Rojos, San Carlos, Santa Maria, Tio Francisco, Trader Joe’s, and 365 Whole Foods Market. The firm has temporarily ceased the production and distribution of these products.
In addition, the USDA has issued a public health alert for meat and poultry products containing Rizo Lopes Foods dairy products that may be contaminated.
“In the U.S. there are an estimated 255 deaths due to Listeria monocytogenes every year, and a case fatality rate of 15-30%. Due to the fatality rate and severe complications, Listeria is a pathogen of significant public health concern,” said William Marler of Marler Clark. “Companies that manufacture high risk foods need to do a far better job at eliminating the risk of a resident Listeria bacteria.”
In 2011, Marler Clark represented the families of 33 people who died after consuming Listeria tainted cantaloupe. In 2023, Marler Clark was profiled in the Netflix documentary “Poisoned.”
Image: William “Bill” Marler