Public health officials are investigating a listeria outbreak linked to hard-boiled eggs used in salads at restaurants and grocery stores.

The outbreak strain infected seven people, including one who died, over the last two years in five states, the FDA says.

Almark Foods recalled pails of peeled eggs distributed to food service locations nationwide and suspended production because of the potential Listeria monocytogenes contamination. The eggs were sold primarily to further processing plants of egg products and restaurant chain suppliers.  

The FDA warned restaurants and retailers to “use extra vigilance” to clean and sanitize surfaces that the eggs may have touched to prevent cross-contamination.

The recalled white plastic pails of eggs, containing 20 pounds or more, were sold under the following names: Rainbow Select 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.

The products were not sold directly to consumers. Four people infected with the outbreak strain said in interviews with investigators that they ate boiled eggs in deli salads from grocery stores or salads at restaurants.

The illnesses started on dates from April 2017 to November 2019, including four illnesses this year. Four people had to be hospitalized.

The states with illnesses are Florida, Maine, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas.

Almark Foods says the FDA notified it that the eggs produced at its Gainesville, Ga., facility may be associated with the investigation. The company paused production to further investigate, its recall announcement says.

The FDA found the outbreak strain during an inspection of the facility in February 2019, matching it through genetic sequencing. The agency is doing more inspections and sampling. Almark Foods has been cooperating with the investigation.

This outbreak strain was found during environmental sampling in 2017 of one other food facility, the FDA says. That facility is not currently handling food and ceased operation in 2018.

Almark urged customers who purchased the eggs to destroy them. Customers with questions may call Almark Foods’ Customer Helpline at 877-546-0454 weekdays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST.

For a list of recalled Almark products with ID numbers and use by dates, go to the company’s recall announcement.