Ice cream machines that were not cleaned properly by staff are to blame for the death of three people in Washington. Listeria bacteria was found in ice cream machines at a Frugals restaurant in Tacoma, Washington, which were used to make milkshakes served at the burger joint.
Listeria is an infection normally caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium listeria monocytogenes.
Most people who eat food contaminated with Listeria will not fall seriously ill. But in some cases, it can cause confusion and seizures and miscarriage and stillbirth in pregnant women.
The restaurant stopped using its ice cream machines on August 8, but Listeria can make people ill up to 70 days later
Listeria bacteria was found in ice cream machines at a Frugals restaurant in Tacoma, Washington, which were used to make milkshakes served at the burger joint
People who are pregnant, aged 65 or older, and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk.
Officials say vulnerable people should call their health care provider if they had a Frugals’ Tacoma milkshake between May 29 and August 7, 2023, and have listeria symptoms.
Investigators found listeria in the ice cream machines at the restaurant on 10727 Pacific Ave. S. in Tacoma, which had not been cleaned correctly.
The restaurant stopped using its ice cream machines on August 8, but Listeria can make people ill up to 70 days later.
Officials used genetic testing of bacteria in the milkshakes to show that the Listeria strain is the same one which hospitalized six people between February 27 and July 22.
All six cases had weakened immune systems making them less able to fight the disease. Three of them died.
In a statement posted on Facebook, Frugals said: ‘We are heartbroken and deeply regret any harm our actions could have caused.’
It announced it had stopped all sales of milkshakes at all its locations, that machines at other stores would be tested for Listeria, and the contaminated machinery would be sanitized and re-tested.
Many foods can harbor listeria, but it is usually found in unpasteurized milk, soft cheeses and ready-to-eat foods, such as prepacked sandwiches.
Listeria is widespread in the environment and can be found in raw food and soil and in the droppings of many mammals, birds, and fish.
Mild symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting typically start within 24 hours of eating contaminated food and generally last one to three days.
However, if the infection spreads beyond the gut, it becomes an invasive illness, with symptoms occurring within two weeks of eating listeria-contaminated food.
The infection is treated with antibiotics.
According to the CDC, roughly 1,600 Americans get listeria yearly and about 260 die.
Invasive illness during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery or life-threatening infection of the newborn, and almost 1 in 20 non-pregnant people with invasive listeria die.
Almost one in 20 non-pregnant people with invasive listeria die.
You can avoid listeria by washing your hands regularly with soap and water, washing fruit and vegetables before eating them, storing ready-to-eat foods as recommended by the manufacturer, and ensuring all hot food is steaming hot all the way through.