CDC Food Safety Alert: CDC investigating fast-moving outbreak of Listeria infections

Press Release

For Immediate Release: Friday, February 12, 2021
Contact: Media Relations
(404) 639-3286

A CDC food safety alert regarding a multistate outbreak of Listeria infections linked to Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses has been posted:

Key points:

  • CDC, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and state officials are investigating an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections that has sickened seven people in four states (Connecticut, Maryland, New York, Virginia).
  • All seven people have been hospitalized.
  • Interviews with sick people indicate that Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses (like queso fresco) are a likely source of this outbreak.
  • Because Listeria can cause severe infections, CDC is advising people at higher risk for severe Listeria illness to not eat any Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses (like queso fresco) until more information is available.
  • People who are not at higher risk of severe illness should make sure the Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses (like queso fresco) they eat have labels that say, “Made with pasteurized milk.”
  • This investigation is ongoing to determine a specific type or brand of Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheese that is making people sick.

Advice for people at higher risk for Listeria infection (pregnant people and their newborns, adults 65 years or older, and people with weakened immune systems, such as people with cancer or on dialysis)

  • 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.
  • Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you have any symptoms of severe Listeria illness after eating Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses.

About Listeria:

  • Listeria can cause severe illness (known as invasive listeriosis) when the bacteria spread beyond the gut to other parts of the body.
  • 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.

If you have questions about cases in a particular state, please call that state’s health department.


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