SARASOTA, Fla. — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning people not to eat ice cream only sold in Florida that has been linked to more than 20 hospitalizations and a death.
The CDC is concerned that Big Olaf Creamery ice cream could still be in people’s homes or available for sale in Florida stores with different company names. They are advising people not to eat, serve or sell the ice cream. If they have it at home, the CDC says they should throw it away.
The CDC also says people visiting Florida who aren’t sure about the brand of ice cream they are ordering is Big Olaf Creamery brand should ask the store before buying or eating.
As of July 8, a total of 23 people infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported from 10 states. 12 of those infected are residents of Florida and another nine reported traveling to Florida before getting sick.
Of the people who have gotten sick, 22 people have been hospitalized, and one death has been reported in Illinois. Five pregnant people got sick, resulting in the loss of one of the pregnancies.
The age range of the people infected goes from younger than one to 92 years old, with a median age of 72. More than half of those infected are male.
The CDC says recent illnesses may not be reported, as it usually takes three to four weeks to determine if a sick person is part of an outbreak. The true number of people involved in this outbreak is likely higher than the reported amount, as some people recover without medical care and are not tested.
While health officials are still trying to determine the exact source of the infections, it has been linked to ice cream. Of the 17 people that health officials interviewed about the foods they ate in the month before getting sick, 14 reported eating ice cream.
Only 13 people remembered details about the type of ice cream they ate. Six of those reported eating Big Olaf Creamery brand ice cream, or eating ice cream at locations that might have been supplied by the company.
In a statement, Big Olaf Creamery said while the company is cooperating with the ongoing investigation, “it is only speculation” that their ice cream is the culprit.
Regarding the investigation for possible listeria contamination:
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. 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 2022. 6 out of the 23 patients mentioned having consumed Big Olaf ice cream, but nothing has been proven. We have been cooperating with the Florida Department of Health, FDACS, and the FDA as soon as we were informed about the situation. 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.– Big Olaf Creamery via Instagram
The CDC says public health investigators are using a system that manages a national database of DNA fingerprints of bacteria to identify illnesses that may be part of this outbreak. This same method was used to identify the source of the Jif peanut butter Salmonella outbreak.
The investigation showed that bacteria from sick people’s samples are closely related genetically. The CDC says this means people in the outbreak likely got sick from the same food.