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  1. Outbreaks of Foodborne Illness

Outbreak Investigation of Listeria monocytogenes: Hard-Boiled Eggs (December 2019)

FDA’s investigation is complete. CDC announces outbreak is over.

March 4, 2020

Rainbow Farms Select Hard Cooked Peeled Eggs 20 lbs container

FDA, CDC, and state and local partners investigated an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections linked to hard-boiled eggs produced by Almark Foods’ Gainesville, Georgia facility. Almark Foods announced an initial voluntary recall of hard-boiled and peeled eggs in pails on December 20, 2019, and then on December 23, 2019 expanded the recall to include all hard-boiled eggs produced at the Gainesville, Georgia facility. All recalled products are now past their “best by” dates.

CDC has announced this outbreak is over. FDA’s investigational activities, including an inspection, are complete. At this time, the firm is no longer producing products at this facility.

Recommendation

Recalled products are now past their “best by” dates and should be thrown away.

FDA recommends that food processors, restaurants and retailers who received recalled products use extra vigilance in cleaning and sanitizing any surfaces that may have come in contact with these products, to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.

Case Counts

Total Illnesses: 8
Illnesses in 2019: 5
Hospitalizations: 5
Deaths: 1
Last illness isolation date: December 7, 2019
States with Cases: FL (1), ME (2), PA (1), SC (2), TX (2)
States with Cases in 2019: FL (1), ME (2), SC (2), TX (1)
Product Distribution*: Nationwide
*Distribution has been confirmed for states list, but at this time we believe the product was distributed nationwide. Updates will be provided as more information becomes available.

CDC Outbreak Page

What Products are Recalled?

Recalled products include bulk product sold in pails, as well as products sold at retail. Companies who received recalled product from Almark Foods have initiated recalls of products containing these eggs. A list of all these recalls is available on the FDA website.

Learn more:

What is Listeria?

Listeria monocytogenes (L. monocytogenes) is a species of pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria that can be found in moist environments, soil, water, decaying vegetation and animals, and can survive and even grow under refrigeration and other food preservation measures. When people eat food contaminated with L. monocytogenes, they may develop a disease called listeriosis.

Depending on the severity of the illness, symptoms may last from days to several weeks. Mild symptoms may include a fever, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If the more severe form of listeriosis develops, symptoms may include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions. People infected with L. monocytogenes may start to see symptoms in a few hours or as long as two to three days after eating contaminated food. More severe forms of listeriosis may take anywhere from three days to three months to develop.

The severity of listeriosis varies and in some cases can be fatal, especially among the elderly, people with weakened immune systems or chronic diseases. Listeriosis can be particularly dangerous for pregnant women and their newborn babies, leading to serious complications with their pregnancy, including miscarriage and stillbirth.

Learn more:

General Food Safety Tips for Retailers

If retailers and/or other food service operators have handled recalled or other potentially contaminated food in their facilities, they should:

  • Wash the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator, cutting boards and countertops, and utensils that may have contacted contaminated foods; then sanitize them with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water; dry with a clean cloth or paper towel that has not been previously used.
  • Wash and sanitize display cases and surfaces used to potentially store, serve, or prepare potentially contaminated foods.
  • Wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process.
  • Conduct regular frequent cleaning and sanitizing of cutting boards and utensils used in processing to help minimize the likelihood of cross-contamination. 

General Food Safety Tips for Consumers

People should consult their healthcare provider if they suspect that they have developed symptoms that resemble listeriosis.

Consumers should follow these steps for preventing foodborne illness:

  • Wash the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator, cutting boards and countertops, and utensils that may have contacted contaminated foods; then sanitize them with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water; dry with a clean cloth or paper towel that has not been previously used.
  • Wash and sanitize surfaces used to serve or store potentially contaminated products.
  • Wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process.

Consumers can also submit a voluntarily report, a complaint, or adverse event (illness or serious allergic reaction) related to a food product.

Previous Updates

December 26, 2019

On December 23, 2019 Almark Foods expanded its voluntary recall to include all hard-boiled eggs manufactured at its Gainesville, Georgia facility. The initial recall included bulk hard-boiled eggs in pails and now includes product packaged for sale at retail within shelf-life, which have “Best If Used By Dates” through March 2, 2020. If the “Best If Used By” code starts with the prefix “G”, the product was manufactured at the company's Gainesville, Georgia facility and is subject to this recall. At this time, Almark Foods is no longer producing products from this facility.

Companies who received recalled product from Almark Foods have initiated recalls of products containing these eggs. A list of all these recalls is available on the FDA website.

Background

As of December 17, 2019, a total of seven people infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported from five states. In interviews, ill people answered questions about the foods they ate and other exposures in the month before they became ill. Of the five people for whom information was available, four reported eating products containing eggs. Three of these people reported eating hard-boiled eggs in deli salads purchased from grocery stores and in salads eaten at restaurants. Illnesses started on dates ranging from April 10, 2017 to November 12, 2019.

Additionally, based on whole-genome sequencing, the Listeria monocytogenes found in  environmental samples collected at the firm’s processing facility during FDA inspections conducted in February 2019 and December 2019 are a genetic match to the outbreak strain. Almark Foods has been cooperating with the ongoing investigation and announced an initial voluntary recall of hard-boiled and peeled eggs in pails on December 20, 2019. On December 23, 2019 Almark Foods expanded the initial recall to include all hard-boiled eggs produced at its Gainesville, Georgia facility.

December 20, 2019

FDA, CDC, and state and local partners are currently investigating a multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections linked to foods that contain hard-boiled eggs. On December 20, 2019, Almark Foods recalled and suspended production of hard-boiled and peeled eggs in pails due to the potential for contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. These hard-boiled and peeled eggs were sold in pails under the following names: Rainbow Farms Hard-cooked Eggs, Rainbow Select Hard-cooked Eggs in Vinegar, Nic’s Salad Hard-boiled Eggs, Almark Hard-cooked Eggs, and Sutherland Select Hard-cooked Eggs.


Who to Contact

Consumers who have symptoms should contact their health care provider to report their symptoms and receive care.

To report a complaint or adverse event (illness or serious allergic reaction), you can

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