Queso and Cotija Listeria Outbreak Timeline

A deadly Listeria outbreak has been linked to queso fresco, cotija, and other cheeses made by Rizo-López Foods of Modesto, CA. Whole genome sequencing revealed that Listeria found at the company’s manufacturing facility matches the strain that sickened 26 people between June 15, 2014, and December 10, 2023, killing two of them. One woman suffered the loss of her pregnancy.

Listeria Cheese recall

The outbreak triggered a recall by Rizo Lopez Foods, an expansion of that recall, and a cascade of related recalls for products containing the cheese.

Symptoms of a Listeria Infection

Symptoms of a Listeria infection usually appear within 24 hours of exposure but sometimes they can take as long as 70 days to appear. They include:

  • High fever, stiff neck, and other muscle aches
  • Severe headache, loss of balance, confusion, and convulsions
  • Upset stomach or diarrhea

Listeria poses a heightened risk to people 65 and over and those who have weakened immune systems. Pregnant women are 20 times more likely than other people to contract Listeria infections.

Queso and Cotija Listeria Outbreak Investigation

Using Pulsenet, a national database of DNA “fingerprints” of bacteria that caused a foodborne illness, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discovered several matches, indicating an outbreak, in 2017 and opened an investigation.

The first illnesses occurred in 2014 and by November 2017 eight people had been sickened. Although patients said they had eaten queso or similar cheeses before they became ill, they couldn’t name specific brands, and the investigation was closed without resolution.

But the illnesses didn’t stop.

By 2021, the outbreak included 21 people. The CDC opened an investigation for a second time. Just as in 2017, the patients reported eating queso or other soft cheeses before developing symptoms of a Listeria infection, but not enough of them could remember the brand name.

Again, the investigation was closed without resolution. And again the illnesses continued.

By 2024, 26 people had been sickened and two were killed. One woman experienced the loss of her pregnancy. For the third time the CDC opened an investigation and this time the brand names mentioned by patients pointed to cheeses made by Rizo Lopez Foods.

Experienced Listeria Lawyers

The Pritzker Hageman Listeria lawyers have unequaled success in representing people harmed by listeriosis and other foodborne pathogens. Our firm has represented clients in every major  Listeria outbreak and has obtained numerous million and multi-million-dollar recoveries including:

  • $6.4 million for neurologic injury from a contaminated deli product
  • $4.5 million for permanent brain damage from contaminated food
  • $3 million for a pregnant woman who lost her unborn twins after eating contaminated food
  • $1 million for illness from contaminated deli meat

If your illness is included in this outbreak or if you suffered the wrongful death of a family member and would like a free consultation with our experienced team of Listeria lawyers, please contact us today by calling 888-377-8900 (toll-free), texting 612-261-0856, or by completing the form below.

  • 2014


    2 Illnesses

  • 2015


    1 Illness

  • 2017


    5 Illnesses, CDC Begins 1st Investigation

  • 2018


    2 Illnesses

  • 2019


    2 Illnesses

  • 2020


    3 Illnesses

  • 2021


    6 Illnesses CDC Begins 2nd Investigation

  • 2022


    1 Illness

  • 2023


    4 illness

  • 2024 January


    Hawaii DOH Finds Listeria in Product Sample, Rizo-Lopez Issues Recall

  • 2024 Februray


    WGS Testing Confirms Outbreak Link, Recall Expanded