Three individuals have died due to contaminated milkshakes from a restaurant in Washington, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) reported.
An Aug. 18 press release from the Washington DOH reads that officials found Listeria bacteria in all milkshake flavors at Frugals restaurant in Tacoma, Washington. Ice cream machines at the restaurant developed Listeria because they had been improperly cleaned.
According to the Washington DOH, Listeria is a form of bacteria that causes serious infection in some cases. It is most commonly contracted by consuming food that has instances of the bacteria growing on it. It can cause “a mild, flu-like illness or a serious infection of the bloodstream or the lining covering the brain and spinal cord,” according to the DOH. every year, 10-25 cases of listeriosis are recorded in the state of Washington.
Any person can be impacted and most who are contaminated will only suffer mild illness. However, Pregnant women, elderly adults, newborn babies and immunocompromised people are at higher risk, according to the DOH.
After it was discovered that Listeria had been growing in the ice cream machines, Employees stopped using them at that location as a precautionary measure on Aug. 8. However, Listeria can cause illness “up to 70 days later,” according to the release. Frugals in Tacoma was the only restaurant known to be impacted by the outbreak.
Between Feb. 27 and July 22, 2023, six people were hospitalized for the condition, the press release confirmed. All six had preexisting conditions, which weakened their immune system and made them more susceptible to diseases and infections.
All impacted patients were from either Pierce or Thurston County, and genetic fingerprinting revealed that the listeria strain from the contaminated milkshakes matched the bacteria that led to the hospitalizations.
Three patients died, while three survived. Two of those survivors confirmed that they had had a milkshake at Frugals in Tacoma before becoming ill.
In a statement to local outlet KOMO, Frugals said it was “deeply saddened to learn the Washington State Department of Health is reporting six people were hospitalized with foodborne listeriosis and three people later died.
“We are heartbroken and deeply regret any harm our actions could have caused. Frugals has and will continue to fully cooperate with and support this ongoing investigation,” it continued.
“We have followed all (Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department) recommendations, including immediately halting all milkshake sales at our Tacoma location and sending the milkshake equipment to an independent facility for thorough cleaning, sanitization and re-testing,” Frugals said.
The chain added that it “also directed all milkshake machines in our other locations to be shut down and samples from these machines to be sent out for similar testing.”
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