CDC wraps up latest queso fresco Listeria outbreak investigation
An investigation into a Listeria moncytogenes outbreak linked to a New Jersey company's queso fresco cheese has ended, with 14 cases reported in four states, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said May 14 in a final update.
The final total reflects the addition of two more cases since the CDC's last update on Mar 1. The most recent illness onset was Mar 17. Twelve people were hospitalized, and one person died. Most of the patients were Hispanic, and half were female. Four were sick during their pregnancies; two lost their babies, one baby was born early, and one woman is still pregnant after recovering from her infection.
Of 11 people interviewed, 8 had eaten queso fresco, including 4 who named brands made by El Abuelito, based in New Jersey. Tests on cheese samples from a store in Connecticut identified a strain that closely resembles the one that made people sick. The company recalled all queso fresco products on Feb 17, then a week later recalled all products made or packaged at the same facility.
The CDC urged people—especially those at high risk for complications, such as pregnant women—to avoid eating soft cheeses like queso fresco unless they are labeled as made with pasteurized milk. It warned, however, that even Hispanic fresh and soft cheeses made with pasteurized milk can become contaminated with Listeria if they are produced in unsanitary conditions.
May 14 CDC food safety alert
Irrigation water spotlighted as likely red onion Salmonella outbreak source
A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigation into a large Salmonella Newport outbreak linked to red onions from California's Southern San Joaquin and Imperial Valley growing regions found several contributing factors, with the main hypothesis that contaminated irrigation water may have been the source.
The outbreak was unusual, because it was the nation's largest in more than a decade, with hundreds of related cases reported in Canada, and it involved red onions, which hadn't been linked to earlier foodborne illness outbreaks. The event that unfolded in 2020 sickened 1,127 people in the United States and 515 in Canada.
In an investigation report posted on May 13, the FDA said genetic evidence of the outbreak strain wasn't found in extensive sampling, but evidence of Salmonella Newport was found in a small number of sediment and water samples from one of the growing fields, leading to the main hypothesis that contaminated irrigation water may have been the source.
Visual observations found other possibilities, including sheep grazing on adjacent land, signs of animal intrusion, and packing house factors.
The FDA said genetic findings in some of the sediment and water showed links to earlier Salmonella Muenchen and Montevideo outbreaks linked to sprouts, hinting at pathogen persistence in the growing region that could pose a risk to a range of produce.
May 13 FDA investigation report