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CDC ties deadly listeria outbreak to hard-boiled eggs from Almark Foods

Federal health officials have issued a food-safety alert regarding hard-boiled eggs from a Georgia processor believed to be tied to a multistate outbreak of listeria that has killed one person and sickened six others. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voiced concern that hard-boiled eggs produced by Almark Foods are contaminated with listeria that has sickened people in Florida, Maine, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas. One person in Texas died and four others were hospitalized as a result of the infection, the CDC reported

Three of the infections from the outbreak strain of the pathogen occurred in 2017 and four others occurred this year, according to the agency. 

"Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicates that bulk hard-boiled eggs from Almark Foods are a likely source of this outbreak," according to the CDC. "Three of these people reported eating hard-boiled eggs in deli salads purchased from grocery stores and in salads eaten at restaurants."

The CDC's probe is ongoing, with investigators collecting grocery and restaurant receipts from places where those infected reported eating hard-boiled eggs, the agency said. 

The products were packaged in plastic pails and sold to food-service companies nationwide, but it's unclear whether contaminated eggs are still in distribution. 

Almark did not return requests for comment.

In its announcement, the CDC referred to a February inspection at an Almark plant by the Food and Drug Administration, which found the outbreak strain in two places at the facility. The FDA sent a warning letter to Almark in July.

Almark recalled some products, according to the FDA's warning letter, but there's no evidence of any recall by the company on its site or the FDA's site. 

The FDA typically holds off on posting recalls on its website until the companies involved have issued a public recall. Business-to-business recalls are often not announced by the FDA because the companies behind the recalls are not releasing the information to the public at large.

As things stand, the CDC is advising consumers at higher risk for listeria infection to discard any store-bought hard-boiled eggs or products containing them, like egg salad. Those eating out should check before eating hard-boiled eggs to make sure they did not come from Almark. People should refrain from ordering food containing hard-boiled eggs if their origin is not clear, the agency said.

Those at higher risk for the potentially severe infection include the very young, people 65 and older, pregnant women and people with compromised health, the CDC stated. For instance, people on dialysis are more than 50 times more likely to get sick after eating food contaminated with the bacteria. 

Listeria infection is the third leading cause of death from food poisoning in the U.S., according to the CDC, which estimates about 1,600 people get sick from it each year, and about 260 die.

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