Listeria strain linked to 3 deaths found in Tacoma restaurant milkshakes


Milkshakes from a Tacoma, Washington, restaurant have been linked to three deaths and three more hospitalizations due to listeria bacteria this year, the Washington state Department of Health announced Friday. The department said the ice cream machines were not properly cleaned. Now, one of the victims’ families is suing.

Here is a press announcement from the state health department:

OLYMPIA – Listeria bacteria found in all milkshake flavors sold at Frugals restaurant at 10727 Pacific Ave. S., Tacoma, WA are associated with a foodborne listeriosis outbreak linked to six hospitalizations and three deaths. Investigators found Listeria in the ice cream machines, which were not cleaned correctly. No other Frugals restaurants are believed to be affected. The restaurant stopped using its ice cream machines Aug. 8, but Listeria can sicken people up to 70 days later. 

Most people who eat food contaminated with Listeria will not get seriously sick, but people who are pregnant, aged 65 or older, and those with weakened immune systems should call their health care provider if they ate a Frugals’ Tacoma milkshake between May 29 and Aug. 7, 2023 and have Listeria symptoms (listed below). Listeria can be treated with antibiotics.

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Genetic fingerprinting of bacteria in the milkshakes shows it’s the same strain of Listeria that hospitalized six people between Feb. 27 and July 22 (five people in Pierce County and one person in Thurston County). All six people had conditions that made their immune systems less able to fight disease. Three of the six people hospitalized died. Two people who were hospitalized, but did not die, said they ate Frugals’ Tacoma milkshakes before getting sick.

KOMO-TV in Seattle reports the family of one of those who died is suing the restaurant.

The restaurant provided a statement to KOMO saying, in part, that it believes the cases are isolated to the one restaurant. But as a precaution, it was shutting down the milkshake machines at all its restaurants until they can be tested.

“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 restaurant told KOMO.

Tacoma-Pierce County Department of Health records show Frugals has no previous food safety infractions, KOMO reported.


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