All News / Outbreaks /

Listeria outbreak: Three die after drinking contaminated milkshakes

BBC News, Washington | By Brandon Drenon | August 22, 2023

Three people have died, and three others are in hospital after drinking milkshakes contaminated with listeria bacteria in the US state of Washington, health officials say.

Investigators found the bacteria in the ice cream machines at Frugals, a popular burger and milkshakes restaurant in Tacoma.

The restaurant said in a statement it was "deeply saddened" by the news.

Listeria can affect people up to 70 days after consuming contaminated food.

Health officials said the ice cream machines at the Tacoma restaurant were not cleaned correctly resulting in a foodborne listeriosis outbreak.

Six people were sent to the hospital between 27 February and 22 July, the Washington State Department of Health said. Genetic fingerprinting of bacteria in the milkshakes shows it was the same strain of listeria.

Those six people had weakened immune systems and were between the ages of 40 and 79.

Two of the three who survived said they had a milkshake from the same Frugals restaurant before feeling symptomatic.

In a statement, Frugals said: "We are heartbroken and deeply regret any harm our actions could have caused.

"We are committed to making any changes deemed necessary to maintain our high standard of operations and prevent this from happening again."

The business has stopped selling all milkshakes at the Tacoma location and has sent the milkshake equipment to an independent facility for cleaning and re-testing. As a precaution, Frugals has also halted the production of milkshakes at other locations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 1,600 Americans are infected by listeria every year, and some 260 die.

Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, confusion and seizures. For those who are pregnant, symptoms can also include pregnancy loss or premature birth.

Get Help

Affected by an outbreak or recall?

The team at Marler Clark is here to answer all your questions. Find out if you’re eligible for a lawsuit, what questions to ask your doctor, and more.

Get a free consultation
Related Resources
Listeria Food Poisoning

What is Listeria and how does it cause food poisoning? Listeria is a gram-positive, rod-shaped bacterium that is ubiquitous and can grow under either anaerobic (without oxygen) or aerobic (with...

The Incidence of Listeria Infections

How common are Listeria infections? Listeria bacteria are found widely in the environment in soil, including in decaying vegetation and water, and may be part of the fecal flora of...

The Prevalence of Listeria in Food and the Environment

Listeria bacteria are common in nature. Listeria monocytogenes is omnipresent in nature; it is found widely in such places as water, soil, infected animals, human and animal feces, raw and...

Transmission of and Infection with Listeria

Listeria typically spreads to people through contaminated food or water, but can also be transmitted from mother to fetus. Except for the transmission of mother to fetus, human-to-human transmission of...

Who is Most at Risk of Becoming Ill with Listeria?

The elderly, pregnant women, and anyone immunocompromised is most at risk for contracting Listeria. Several segments of the population are at increased risk and need to be informed so that...

Outbreak Database

Looking for a comprehensive list of outbreaks?

The team at Marler Clark is here to answer all your questions. Find out if you’re eligible for a lawsuit, what questions to ask your doctor, and more.

View Outbreak Database