Costco, Trader Joe’s, and Albertsons Among Stores Impacted by Listeria Outbreak and Recalls

By: Georgia McKoy | Published: Feb 25, 2024

Costco, Trader Joe’s, and Walmart are among the major retailers that have initiated recalls of certain dairy products. This action comes in the wake of an announcement by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week. 

The FDA has linked a listeria outbreak to potentially dozens of products, which has resulted in over 20 hospitalizations and two fatalities.

Listeria Outbreak Tied to California-Based Food Supplier

Forbes reports that the FDA has identified almost 60 dairy products, including queso fresco and cotija cheese sold by major retailers nationwide, as being affected by the listeria outbreak. 

A package of Oaxaca Mexican Melting String Cheese by Rizo Bros California Creamery. The package is labeled with the product name and descriptions such as 'salty, mild, and easy to melt.'

Source: US Food and Drug Administration

This outbreak is connected to California-based food supplier Rizo-Lopez Foods. Following this revelation, Rizo-Lopez Foods has recalled all its dairy products, demonstrating the severity of the contamination.

A Multi-Year, Multistate Outbreak Traced Back to 2014

This listeria outbreak is described by the FDA as a “multi-year, multistate outbreak” that contains the same listeria strain as cases dating back to 2014. 

This image shows a close up image of listeria bacteria in a petri dish. It shows a gathering of black dots on a yellow backgorund

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This marks the first instance where a specific brand has been identified as the source of the outbreak, after previous FDA investigations in 2017 and 2021 failed to pinpoint a specific brand.

Retailers Respond with Product Recalls and Refunds

In response to the outbreak, Trader Joe’s, Costco, and Walmart have announced recalls of affected products.

Customers walking towards and away from the entrance of a Costco Wholesale store. The building features a beige exterior with red accents and the Costco logo above the entrance

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Trader Joe’s has recalled four products containing the affected dairy items, offering full refunds. Costco recalled five products, including its southwest wraps, and also offered full refunds. Walmart’s announcement revealed that over 600 stores were impacted by the recall, USA Today reveals.

Affected Products Sold Under Various Brand Names Nationwide

The recalled dairy products were sold under a variety of brand names, including Rizo Bros, 365 Whole Foods Market, and Rio Grande, Forbes explains.

A collage of six different packaged Mexican cheese products. Starting from the top left, there is a package of "Blanco Suave" cheese, followed by a black container of "Grated Cotija" cheese, and next to it is a package labeled "Fresco" for fresh Mexican crumbling cheese. Below the "Blanco Suave" is a clear tub of "Grated Cotija Cheese" by Casa Cárdenas. To its right is a package of "Cotija" cheese, and lastly, on the bottom right, there's a package of "Oaxaca" cheese sticks

Source: US Food and Drug Administration

These products, with sell-by dates through July 1, have been distributed nationwide across grocery stores and delis. This wide distribution has necessitated a broad and swift recall effort to prevent further illnesses.

Hospitalizations and Fatalities

Since the beginning of the outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported 26 cases, 23 hospitalizations, and two deaths—one in Texas and one in California. 

A patient's hand with an IV line, covered with a white bandage at the insertion point

Source: Anna Shvets/Pexels

USA Today notes that this data suggests that the actual number of cases may be higher, as some individuals recover without seeking medical care or getting tested for listeria.


Ongoing Investigations and Precautionary Measures

The FDA has reported that its investigation into the listeria outbreak is ongoing.

A large, traditional red brick building with a central section featuring a tall, prominent windowed facade

Source: Wikimedia Commons

According to Forbes, in the meantime, Rizo-Lopez Foods has temporarily halted the production and distribution of these dairy products. 


Listeriosis: A Serious Infection

Listeriosis, caused by the listeria bacteria, poses a significant health risk, especially to adults over 65, those with weakened immune systems, pregnant individuals, newborns, and fetuses. 

A scientist's hand, gloved in white, holding a petri dish containing a red agar medium with visible streaks of bacterial colonies

Source: Wikimedia Commons

According to the CDC, the hospitalization rate for those infected with listeria is 94%, with most cases being treatable with antibiotics. However, the infection can be particularly severe, leading to fetal loss in 20% of cases among pregnant individuals.


Understanding Listeriosis

Infection caused by Listeria predominantly affects foods such as soft cheese, meat spreads, and unpasteurized milk, melon, salads and cold-smoked fish, as highlighted by the CDC.

An up-close view of a wooden charcuterie board featuring an arrangement of sliced cheeses and salami. Cubed and sliced yellow cheese are neatly placed beside round slices of red salami

Source: Frank Zhang/Unsplash

This infection has a hospitalization rate of 94% reported by the FDA. While most cases are treatable with antibiotics, the disease can have severe outcomes, including fetal loss in 20% of pregnancies affected by listeria and a 3% mortality rate in newborns, the CDC reports.


Expanded Recall Includes a Wide Range of Products

The recall has been expanded beyond cheese to include enchiladas, bean dip, dressings, and sauces sold at stores including Albertson’s, with products labeled under Amazon Kitchen also affected, USA Today reports.

The front exterior of an Albertsons grocery store with "Savon Pharmacy" signage as well. The store features a beige stone facade with large arched entryways and a red-tiled roof. Vehicles are parked in front

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This expansion indicates the extensive scope of the listeria contamination and the range of products consumers should be cautious of.


No Illnesses Reported for Some Recalled Products

USA Today reports that Trader Joe’s and Simply Fresh have noted that, to date, no illnesses have been reported in connection with their recalled products. 

Shoppers Selecting Produce at Trader Joe’s

Source: Getty Images

These recalls are preventive measures to ensure consumer safety in light of the potential risk posed by listeria contamination.


Refunds and Safety Precautions

Consumers who have purchased any of the recalled products are advised to return them to the store for a refund.

Shoppers queue at a supermarket checkout area, with one line designated by a sign reading "22". Multiple checkout counters are visible, with customers placing items on the conveyor belts and cashiers scanning products

Source: Getty Images

They are also encouraged to clean and sanitize any surfaces that may have come into contact with the recalled products. Listeria can survive in refrigerators and spread to other foods and surfaces, so these precautions are essential for preventing further cases of listeriosis, USA Today notes.