A family-owned restaurant in Washington had to discontinue its ice cream machines after investigators found listeria linked to an outbreak that hospitalized six people, three of whom died.

Between Feb. 27 and July 22 was the time range the six individuals were infected. It can take anywhere from three to 70 days for a person to show symptoms, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

Each of the six individuals hospitalized had a condition that made it more difficult for their immune system to fight disease. The ages of those hospitalized were between ages 40 and 79.

The department said that of the people infected, two confirmed that they had consumed a shake from a Frugals burger restaurant in Tacoma, Washington, according to the department’s reports of the incident.

“The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department collected milkshake samples from the restaurant on Aug. 8, 2023. On Aug. 18, 2023, all flavors of the milkshakes were found to be contaminated with the same strain of Listeria that caused the outbreak,” the department said.

On Aug. 19, Frugals released a statement to social media apologizing for the “harm our actions could have caused.”

“Frugals has and will continue to fully cooperate with and support this ongoing investigation,” part of the statement read. “We have followed all PCHD’s recommendations, including immediately halting all milkshake sales at our Tacoma location and sending the milkshake equipment to an independent facility for thorough cleaning, sanitization and re-testing.”

According to the Health Department, the restaurant had not been properly cleaning its ice cream machines, resulting in the growth of the bacteria.

How is listeria transmitted?

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, listeria is a disease-growing bacteria that can survive in many environments.

Common ways it is transmitted is through unpasteurized milk or raw vegetables that are not properly cleaned. Listeria can even grow in refrigerated foods and other food preservation measures.

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What are the chances of getting listeria?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that in the U.S., there are approximately 1,600 people who get listeria every year, with a total of about 260 deaths due to infection.

Those most at risk of listeria are pregnant women, older adults and people with weakened immune systems.

How can you prevent listeria?

To avoid contracting the disease, there are simple measures to ensure your food is safe from bacteria:

  • Wash hands, surfaces and utensils before and after preparing food.
  • Eat fully-cooked meat.
  • Eat perishable food as soon as possible.
  • Thoroughly wash produce.
  • Avoid unpasteurized foods.

What are the symptoms of listeria?

The CDC said there is a range of symptoms based on severity for people infected with listeria.

“A person with listeriosis usually has fever and muscle aches, sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms. Almost everyone who is diagnosed with listeriosis has invasive infection, meaning the bacteria spread from their intestines to the blood, causing bloodstream infection, or to the central nervous system, causing meningitis,” the CDC said.

Health experts do not recommend seeking medical attention if a person has come in contact with listeria and has no symptoms.