A hard-boiled egg Listeria outbreak has sickened seven people in five states, killing one of them. Almark Foods of Gainesville, Georgia, which sells the eggs nationwide to foodservice operators, has not issued a recall for them so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a warning against selling serving or using these products to prepare others foods.
The CDC used a genetic testing process to identify the genetic “fingerprint” of the Listeria strain responsible for this outbreak. The patients, who range in age from less than 1 to 82 years old, have reported illnesses spanning a two-and-a-half-year period from April 10, 2017, to November 12, 2019. Texas and South Carolina have each reported two cases, Maine, Florida and Pennsylvania have each reported one. The death occurred in Texas.
Four people were hospitalized. One of the illnesses was reported in a newborn who was infected while the mother was pregnant but survived. Infection of a newborn is one of the risks Listeria poses for pregnant women, it can also cause miscarriage, stillbirth and premature delivery.
Health officials interviewed five people about their food histories and four recalled eating products containing hard-boiled eggs before they became ill. They said they ate those foods in salads at restaurants and in deli salads purchased at grocery stores. According to the CDC, “epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicates that bulk hard-boiled eggs produced by Almark Foods of Gainesville, Georgia, are a likely source of this outbreak.”
Environmental samples collected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from Almark’s Georgia facility during a routine inspection in February 2019 were positive for a Listeria strain that is indistinguishable from the outbreak strain. FDA investigators are continuing to collect records from grocery stores and restaurants where the patients purchased salads containing eggs before they became ill.
The implicated Almark eggs were sold in plastic pails to foodservice operators nationwide. Again, the CDC warns, these eggs should not be used to prepare foods as Listeria can cause serious illness and death.