An ice cream maker in Florida said its brand has not been verified to be linked to an outbreak of listeria, calling it “speculation” since an investigation is ongoing.
Big Olaf Creamery commented July 3 on Facebook after the Centers for Disease and Disease Prevention (CDC) reported 23 illnesses, including one death, in an outbreak of listeria linked to ice cream.
In a July 2 post, CDC announced Big Olaf Creamery is voluntarily contacting retail locations to advise against selling its ice cream products until further notice. CDC recommended consumers who have Big Olaf Creamery brand ice cream at home discard the product.
Meanwhile, the Sarasota, Florida-based company is facing two lawsuits, including one from a Massachusetts lady who alleged she become sick and lost her pregnancy due to contaminated ice cream she ate while visiting Florida, the Bradenton Herald reported. A separate lawsuit filed this week alleged an Illinois woman died of a listeria infection after eating ice cream made by Big Olaf Creamery, according to the newspaper based on Florida’s West Coast.
Most of the illnesses reported by CDC occurred in Florida (12). People also fell ill in Colorado (1), Georgia (1), Kansas (1), Illinois (1), Minnesota (1), New Jersey (1), New York (2), Pennsylvania (1) and Massachusetts (2), according to the public health agency.
A CDC chart shows people started getting sick in early 2021, with one illness in January and one in February of that year. Some people also fell ill in May, September, October and November of 2021. And sixteen people became sick between January 2022 and June 2022, according to CDC.
In the Facebook post, Big Olaf Creamery said it wasn’t “sure why only Big Olaf is being mentioned and targeted.” Of the 23 cases of listeria reported, six people “mentioned having consumed Big Olaf ice cream, but nothing has been proven,” the company stated.
Big Olaf Creamery said it has been cooperating with several agencies as soon as it learned about the issues.
“We have been transparent and have answered all their questions and provided them with all the information requested from us, as the health and wellbeing of the public is our first priority,” the company wrote.
One person named Mack Willis responded on Facebook, “Your message is not helping. Words like ‘targeted’ comes across like your minimizing, shifting responsibility or blaming others. It undermines your message of protecting the public!”
The Florida Department of Health (DOH) is leading the epidemiological probe of the listeria outbreak, according to the Bradenton Herald. The newspaper said it could not identify a recall of Big Olaf Creamery products in an FDA database or statewide database maintained by the Florida DOH.
Food safety lawyer Bill Marler is representing a woman in a lawsuit who died after she consumed Big Olaf’s ice cream in January 2022. In a July 7 blog post, he described Listeria monocytogenes as “a deadly bacteria that hospitalizes over 95% of those with confirmed cultures and kills at least 25%.”
“The most vulnerable are women who are pregnant, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems,” Marler wrote.
Marler criticized local and state health departments for not stopping production and sales of Big Olaf ice cream and ordering a full recall. Marler, who has represented victims of foodborne illness for decades, also was critical of the company itself.
“Why a company that knows it is under scrutiny for a deadly Listeria monocytogenes outbreak would ignore the science and put customers at risk is really beyond comprehension, immoral and likely criminal,” Marler proclaimed.
Neither the Florida DOH nor Big Olaf Creamery immediately responded Friday to Food & Beverage Insider’s requests for comment.