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A Tacoma Restaurant’s Milkshakes Have Been Linked to a Deadly Listeria Outbreak

People who drank shakes from Frugals in Tacoma between May 29 and August 7 and have symptoms are advised to contact a doctor

A hand in a white glove holding a plate covered in red material.
A plate with listeria cultures at the Houston Health and Human Services Department.
Mayra Beltran/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images
Harry Cheadle is the editor of Eater Seattle.

The Tacoma location of the Frugals burger chain has been linked to a listeria outbreak, according to a Washington State Department of Health investigation, which found that incorrectly cleaned ice cream machines were responsible for bacterial infections leading to six hospitalizations and three deaths.

In otherwise healthy people who are not pregnant, listeria generally does not result in serious illness, according to the DOH; common symptoms include fever, tiredness, and muscle aches. But in pregnant people, listeria can cause the loss of the pregnancy or premature birth, and it can also cause serious illness or death for newborns, those over 65 years of age, or people with weakened immune systems.

According to KUOW, all six of the people who were hospitalized had “had underlying conditions that left them more susceptible to the disease.” DOH investigators determined that it was likely the same food making all of them sick and two of the hospitalized people said that they had Frugals milkshakes, leading the authorities to look closely at the drive-thru stand.

In a statement posted to Instagram, Frugals said that it had been contacted by investigators last week and was “deeply saddened” to hear of the connection between its milkshakes and the outbreak. It added that it was following recommendations from the Pierce County Department of Health, meaning that it was halting milkshake sales and sending away the machines that were the source of the outbreak for a thorough cleaning. It’s also shutting down all milkshake sales at all seven of its locations in Washington and Montana while it tests them, and will be adopting “enhanced cleaning, safety, and sanitation procedures across all product categories and at all store locations.”

The Frugals in Tacoma stopped using the machines on August 8, but listeria can make people sick up to 70 days after someone comes into contact with the bacteria. If you are pregnant, over 65, or have a weakened immune system and have listeria symptoms after having a Frugals milkshake between May 29 and August 7, the DOH advises you to contact your healthcare provider.