Check Your Freezer Now: Ice Cream Brand Linked to Deadly Outbreak

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has asked consumers to dispose of any Big Olaf Creamery ice cream they might have. The national public health agency has found a link between an ongoing outbreak of listeria and consumption of Big Olaf Creamery ice creams, it said in a Saturday food safety alert. According to the CDC bulletin, there have been 22 hospitalizations, 23 cases of illnesses and one death because of the current outbreak. Cases related to the outbreak have been identified in 10 states: Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. “Consumers who have Big Olaf Creamery brand ice cream at home should throw away any remaining product,” the CDC said. Citizens must thoroughly clean “any areas, containers, and serving utensils that may have touched Big Olaf ice cream products,” the agency said. The CDC instructed businesses to stop selling and serving Big Olaf ice cream products and to clean any equipment or area that might have been in contact with the ice cream. It said the Sarasota, Florida-based ice cream manufacturer was “voluntarily contacting retail locations to recommend against selling their ice cream products until further notice.” Listeria is a serious infection caused by consuming food that has been contaminated with the listeria monocytogenes bacterium. According to the CDC’s fact sheet on the disease, about 1,600 individuals contract listeria annually, and about 260 people per year die from the disease. Listeria infection is “most likely” to cause illness and complications in pregnant women, newborns adults over 65 and people with weaker immune systems. Pregnant women might experience fever, fatigue and muscle aches after contracting listeria. The infection also can harm their unborn babies, leading to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery and life-threatening infections in the child. Those who are not pregnant usually experience headaches, stiff neck, confusion, convulsions, loss of balance, muscle ache and fever as symptoms of listeria. If the disease spreads to other parts of the body, such as the gut, it can become severe. The CDC advises people who experience symptoms of listeria to notify their health care providers as soon as possible. On Tuesday, the estate of deceased Illinois resident Mary Billman filed a lawsuit against Big Olaf Creamery, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported. After Billman consumed Big Olaf ice cream at 3350 Bahia Vista St. location in Sarasota on Jan. 18, her health went downhill, according to the report. Her organs shut down two days after eating the ice cream, and she lost consciousness. On Jan. 29, Billman died, the report said. Big Olaf Creamery questioned aspects of the CDC’s bulletin. “For now it is only speculation as it is an ongoing investigation, 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,” a company representative said Sunday on Big Olaf’s Facebook page. “6 out of the 23 patients mentioned having consumed Big Olaf ice cream, but nothing has been proven,” the post said. “We have been cooperating with the Florida Department of Health, [Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services] and the FDA as soon as we were informed about the situation,” it said. “We have been transparent and have answered all their questions and provided them with all the information requested from us, as the health and well being of the public is our first priority,” the post said. The attorney for the Billman estate said the CDC doesn’t issue bulletins based on speculation. Bill Marler told the Herald-Tribune that cases of listeria undergo genetic fingerprinting and whole genome sequencing. “The CDC looks at that digital fingerprint and compares it to others to look for matches, so when this outbreak began back in January of 2021, there must have been no matches,” Marler said. “Over the course of time, other people got sick, and the same thing happened,” he said. “At some point to the CDC, by communicating with state health authorities that were also investigating these cases, it must have become pretty clear that all of these cases were either in Florida or had some connection to Florida.” Marler added, “Whole genome sequence gives you beyond a reasonable doubt — this is the kind of technology used in criminal cases, DNA sampling, that kind of stuff. It’s been a game-changer in the food space because you know that if people have the same genetic fingerprint, you know it came from the same place.” This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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