Sargento Foods Initiates Recall Amidst Listeria Outbreak Traced to California Dairy

Sargento Foods, a prominent cheese manufacturer based in Wisconsin, has found itself embroiled in a recall situation due to a listeria outbreak connected to Rizo-López Foods, a California dairy company.

In response to the situation, Sargento Foods has notified specific food service clients about the recall of shredded cheese obtained from Rizo-López, which was distributed to them as an ingredient. This recall, initiated on February 5, 2024, is ongoing and primarily affects food service and ingredient products, rather than consumer-packaged goods.

The recall was prompted by a related listeria outbreak associated with Rizo-Lopez Foods Inc.’s Cotija cheese recall in California. Acting with caution, Sargento voluntarily recalled products supplied by Rizo-Lopez and those packaged on the same production lines. This action did not affect Sargento-branded products.

In response to the situation, Sargento terminated its contract with Rizo-López and informed affected customers.

Sargento Foods, established in 1953, operates multiple facilities in Wisconsin, employing over 2,500 individuals and generating $1.8 billion in annual sales.

This recall is part of an ongoing investigation by the FDA into a listeria outbreak linked to cheese produced by Rizo-López in Modesto, California. The investigation has led to a broader recall encompassing various dairy products, including vending machine items, ready-to-eat meals, snacks, dips, dressings, wraps, salads, and taco kits.

The listeria outbreak has resulted in illness across 11 states, with 26 reported cases and 23 hospitalizations. According to the CDC, the most recent illness occurred in December, with two fatalities reported, one in California in 2017 and another in Texas in 2020.

This incident underscores the seriousness of listeriosis, a foodborne illness caused by the consumption of contaminated food. Previous outbreaks, such as the one associated with Johannes Vulto’s creamery in Walton, New York, serve as a reminder of the potential dangers. Listeriosis affects approximately 1,600 Americans annually, with about 260 fatalities, according to the CDC.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Sargento products sold in retail stores were subject to recall. This clarification confirms that only shredded cheese supplied to certain food service clients is affected.

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