Deadly Listeria Outbreak Tied To Washington Restaurant's Milkshakes

An ongoing Listeria outbreak that led to multiple hospitalizations and deaths over the course of five months has been linked back to milkshakes served at Frugals, a local burger chain in Washington. According to the Washington Department of Health, all milkshake flavor samples collected from the Tacoma location have tested positive for Listeria as of August 18. This is the latest of many recent Listeria-related concerns in 2023, following the Midwest salad kit recall in April and this month's 14-state recall of Zespri kiwis.

Between February 27 and July 22, a half-dozen Washington residents with weakened immune systems were hospitalized over severe symptoms of Listeriosis. Testing revealed that they had likely been infected by the same source. Three cases ultimately proved to be fatal, and Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department launched an investigation after two of the affected individuals reported having milkshakes from the same Frugals location. Milkshake samples were collected on August 8 — the same day that the restaurant shut down its ice cream machines — and 10 days later, confirmed to be contaminated with the same strain of Listeria that caused the outbreak.

Listeria symptoms can appear up to 70 days after infection

In a press statement released on August 18, Frugals LLC apologized to customers and pledged full compliance with the official investigation. While no other locations have been linked to the outbreak as of this writing, the company states it has directed all six of its other locations to also shut down their milkshake machines and send samples for testing. Frugals also promises "enhanced cleaning, safety, and sanitization procedures across all product categories and at all store locations" in order to prevent further outbreaks.

Unfortunately, there is very little the restaurant can do for customers who have already been infected. While listeriosis symptoms usually start within two weeks of ingestion, the bacteria can affect people up to 70 days after infection: Customers who ordered a milkshake from Frugals Tacoma months ago could still be at risk of invasive listeriosis illness. The Washington Department of Health advises residents to contact their healthcare provider if they have consumed a milkshake from Frugals Tacoma between May 29 and August 7 and are experiencing any fevers, headaches, confusion, stiff neck, loss of balance, seizures, and/or "flu-like symptoms, such as muscle aches and fatigue."