Officials in Tacoma, Washington, said three people died and three other people were hospitalized with listeriosis after becoming ill, likely due to an improperly cleaned ice cream machine.
The Washington State Department of Health said listeria was found in all milkshake flavors sold by a Frugals restaurant in Tacoma. Health officials said the restaurant shut the machine down on Aug. 8, but listeria symptoms can arise up to 70 days after consumption.
Health officials said genetic fingerprinting found the same strain of listeria found in the ice cream machine that sickened the six people. The illnesses occurred from Feb. 27 through July 22.
"Investigators found Listeria in the ice cream machines, which were not cleaned correctly," the Washington State Department of Health said.
While most people who consume food contaminated with listeria won't become seriously ill, those over age 65, pregnant or have weakened immune systems were encouraged to contact their doctor if they consumed milkshakes from the restaurant between May 29 and Aug. 7, 2023, if they develop symptoms.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says listeria symptoms usually occur one to four weeks after consuming contaminated food, but could start as soon as the same day or up to 70 days later.
Listeria can cause those infected to experience a headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsion, in addition to fever and muscle aches, according to the CDC. Those who are pregnant can face severe symptoms, including miscarriage, premature delivery, and life-threatening infection of the newborn.
Health officials said the location in Tacoma was the only one affected by the outbreak. The company said in a statement that it has shut down ice cream machines at all of its locations for testing.
Frugals has four locations in Washington and three in Montana. The company said it will "fully cooperate" with an investigation. Frugals said the ice cream machine has been sent to an independent company for cleaning, sanitization and inspection.
"As a family-owned business for over 30 years, the trust of our customers is paramount. We will continue to fully cooperate with this investigation, and we are committed to making any changes deemed necessary to maintain our high standard of operations and prevent this from happening again," the company said.
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