Presence of listeria confirmed on equipment used at Big Olaf Creamery facility
SARASOTA, Fla. - The source of a multi-state listeria outbreak that was presumably linked to a Florida ice cream company is becoming clearer.
Initial testing revealed the presence of listeria on equipment used at Big Olaf Creamery's processing facility in Sarasota, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
FDACS officials said product testing is still underway, but the results from 100 environmental samples showed listeria in nine samples.
The agency has issued an official stop-use order for the facility, however, Big Olaf shut it down voluntarily, prior to the testing, out of an abundance of caution.
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FDACS said it expected results from product testing within days.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began investigating after nearly two dozen people across 10 states contracted the illness; 22 were hospitalized.
One woman died due to her infection.
79-year-old Mary Billman of Illinois got ice cream at Big Olaf's on Bahia Vista Street in Sarasota. She later died from the illness.
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Another woman, Kristin H., was 11 weeks pregnant and vacationing in Florida when she consumed ice cream made at the facility. She miscarried after contracting listeria.
Photo provided by lawyer of Kristin H., husband, and two children. Kristin miscarried after eating Big Olaf ice cream and contracting listeria.
The families of both women are suing the company and lawyers say more lawsuits may be filed.
Most of those who reported the illness had traveled to or lived in Florida and the federal agency began narrowing down the similarities.
On July 2, the CDC officially linked Big Olaf Creamery products to the outbreak. The Sarasota-based company began advising its retailers and customers not to sell or consume their products.
On July 8, the Florida Department of Health said Big Olaf agreed to recall its ice cream products to prevent any further illness.
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On July 13, the CDC issued a Food Safety Alert for Big Olaf Creamery ice cream and said it was served in stores, restaurants, and senior homes in Florida, as well as a Big Olaf store in Fredericksburg, Ohio.
"Don't eat, sell, or serve recalled ice cream," the center's alert said.
According to Big Olaf's website, at least nine ice cream shops around Florida were selling the products. Before the company agreed to the recall, some of them had already switched to selling other brands including Yoder's Southern Creamery and Hershey's.
The CDC says all flavors, lots, and expiration dates through 6/30/2022 of Big Olaf brand ice cream products have been recalled. The ice cream was sold in plastic, pint-sized and plastic half-gallon containers, as well as plastic 2.5-gallon tubs for retailers.