Jul 5, 2022 - Economy

Ice cream linked to mystery listeria outbreak, CDC says


Big Olaf Creamery's ice cream has been linked to a listeria outbreak, the CDC said. Photo: BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

A Florida-based ice cream brand has been linked to a mysterious and deadly listeria outbreak with 23 reported illnesses across 10 states and one death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: In its investigation, the CDC ties Big Olaf Creamery of Sarasota to the outbreak and is advising consumers who have any of the brand's ice cream at home to "throw away any remaining product."

  • People in 10 states have become ill from the outbreak: Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, Axios' Herb Scribner reports.
  • Big Olaf Creamery ice cream is only sold in Florida, the CDC said, but the federal agency said 20 of the infected people "reported living in or traveling to Florida in the month before they got sick."
  • The CDC said it is continuing to investigate and that the number of cases is likely higher.

What's happening: A recall has not been issued, but the CDC said on July 1, Big Olaf Creamery "voluntarily began contacting retail locations to recommend against selling their ice cream products."

  • Consumers who have the brand's ice cream also have been told to discard it and to clean "any areas, containers and serving utensils that may have touched Big Olaf ice cream products."

By the numbers: Of the 17 people interviewed by public health officials, 14 (82%) reported eating ice cream.

  • Six reported eating Big Olaf Creamery brand or "eating ice cream at locations that might have been supplied by Big Olaf Creamery," the CDC said.

Meanwhile, in a post on its Facebook page Sunday, the ice cream brand said “it is only speculation as it is an ongoing investigation."

What they’re saying: "Our brand has not been confirmed to be linked to these cases, I am not sure why only Big Olaf is being mentioned and targeted,” the Facebook post said.

  • “The original report we got from the Florida Department of Health on Friday, July 1st, was that there are 23 cases reported, the first one reported was January 2021. 6 out of the 23 patients mentioned having consumed Big Olaf ice cream, but nothing has been proven,” the company said in the post.
  • Big Olaf said it has been “cooperating with the Florida Department of Health, FDACS and the FDA as soon as we were informed about the situation.”
  • The creamery has been family owned and operated for 25 years, according to its website, and does "direct delivery to most of Florida" and serves "ice cream parlors, senior homes, restaurants, fairs and supermarkets with a full range of premium frozen products."

Listeria outbreaks are often linked to dairy and produce

Listeriosis is considered a serious infection that is often caused by contaminated food, per the CDC.

  • Symptoms often start within two weeks of eating the contaminated food.
  • The most common symptoms are fever and flu-like symptoms.
  • Other symptoms include headaches, stiff neck, loss of balance and confusion.

Listeria symptoms

What's next: The CDC recommends calling your health care provider if you have symptoms.

  • You should also write down everything you ate before you became sick, the CDC said.

Herb Scribner contributed to this report.

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