The Florida Department of Health, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, CDC, public health and regulatory officials in several states, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigated a multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections.

Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback data showed that Big Olaf Creamery ice cream made people sick.

As of November 2, 2022, this outbreak is over.

A total of 28 people infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes were reported from 11 states . Fourteen sick people were residents of Florida, and 11 reported traveling to Florida before getting sick.

Sick people’s samples were collected from January 24, 2021, to August 19, 2022. Sick people ranged in age from less than 1 to 92 years, with a median age of 62, and 50% were female. Of the 28 sick people, 27 were hospitalized. One death was reported from Illinois.

Seven illnesses were among pregnant people or newborns. One illness resulted in a pregnancy loss.

The true number of sick people in an outbreak is likely higher than the number reported, and the outbreak may not be limited to the states with known illnesses. This is because some people recover without medical care and are not tested for Listeria. In addition, recent illnesses may not yet be reported as it usually takes 3 to 4 weeks to determine if a sick person is part of an outbreak.

Public health officials interviewed people about the foods they ate before they got sick. Of the 23 people interviewed, all reported eating ice cream, and 16 reported eating Big Olaf Creamery brand ice cream or eating ice cream at locations that have been supplied by Big Olaf Creamery. Ten ill people were identified as part of four illness clusters in this outbreak. An illness cluster is defined as two or more people who do not live in the same household who report eating food from the same retail location before getting sick. If several unrelated sick people ate food from the same retail location, it suggests that the contaminated food item was served or sold there. All four illness clusters were retail locations that sold Big Olaf Creamery ice cream.

Public health investigators used the PulseNet system to identify illnesses that were part of this outbreak. CDC PulseNet manages a national database of DNA fingerprints of bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses. DNA fingerprinting is performed on bacteria using a method called whole genome sequencing (WGS).

WGS showed that bacteria from sick people’s samples were closely related genetically. This suggests that people in this outbreak got sick from the same food.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) collected samples of ice cream and environmental samples from the ice cream production area at the Big Olaf Creamery facility in Sarasota, Florida. FDACS also performed WGS on these samples, and the Florida Department of Health identified the outbreak strain in the samples collected from the ice cream and the environment.

On July 2, 2022, CDC advised people who had Big Olaf Creamery ice cream at home to throw away any remaining product. On July 13, 2022, Big Olaf Creamery LLC recalled all flavors, lots, and expiration dates of Big Olaf brand ice cream through June 30, 2022.

Listeria:  Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Listeria outbreaks. The Listeria lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Listeria and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $850 million for clients.  Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.  Our Listeria lawyers have litigated Listeria cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as lettuce, polony, deli meat, cantaloupe, cheese, celery and milk.  

If you or a family member became ill with a Listeria infection after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark Listeria attorneys for a free case evaluation.

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