State regulators found that samples of 16 of 17 ice cream flavors from the Big Olaf Creamery production facility in Sarasota County tested positive for listeria bacteria, prompting the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services late Friday to issue an official order halting sales.
The products were already part of a voluntary recall, and agency spokeswoman Erin Moffett said in a statement that the department “continues to work closely with our state and federal partners on this investigation and enforcement of the sale moratorium.”
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The flavors that tested positive were: Blueberry Cheesecake, Butter Pecan, Cherry Cordial, Chocolate, Cookie Dough, Chocolate Chip, Coconut, Coconut & Almond Joy, Cookies & Cream, Kahlua Crunch, Mint Chip, Pistachio, Plantation Praline, Superman, Vanilla And white chocolate raspberry.
The Department of Agriculture also sampled equipment at the facility and released those results earlier this week, saying that nine out of 100 samples tested positive for the bacteria that causes listeriosis, a deadly foodborne illness that affects about 1,600 people annually. Moffett said another notable sample that was taking a while to produce a result also came back positive, bringing the total number of positive samples to 10.
The news of positive product samples comes nearly two weeks after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first linked the listeria outbreak to Big Olaf Creamery. Despite warnings from the Public Health Agency, the company’s production facility initially dismissed the claims as “only speculation,” and several Big Olaf retail locations have continued to sell the product.
The CDC says 23 illnesses have been reported, with 22 hospitalizations and one death, though officials acknowledge the actual number may be higher. Those affected were from 10 states. No new diseases have been reported since June 30.
It wasn’t until the company issued a recall on Friday, July 8 that all Big Olaf retailers were required to return the ice cream to the production plant.
According to the CDC’s website, the ice cream recalled or served was sold at Big Olaf retail stores, restaurants, and seniors’ homes in Florida and at one location in Fredericksburg, Ohio.
All flavors, cuts and expiration dates until June 30, 2022 for Big Olaf brand ice cream products have been withdrawn.
The ice cream was sold to consumers in pint-size plastic containers and half-gallon plastic containers, says the CDC. The ice cream was sold to independent retailers in room-sized 2.5-gallon plastic tubs.
hub for retailers
“The point is – if there is an ongoing ‘Listeria outbreak’ and where is it affected and who is affected? There are no ‘news’ reports of any local cases, the cases initially reported were over two weeks ago. So why then aren’t there more cases? ?” Eszter Bazso, owner of the Big Olaf locations on the South Tam Miami Trail and Cattlemen Road, wrote by email on July 5: “There have been thousands upon thousands of servings of ice cream since then. These products have not been recalled and Big Olaf has not been recommended.” Creamery throws away any of the products.”
Since then, Basso has switched to selling McLean’s ice cream in two of her Sarasota stores. She also renamed it on Facebook, changing the Cattlemen Road location from “Bigolafdream” to “Dream Ice Cream”. On Thursday, the store on Facebook said all refrigerators and machines had been professionally cleaned.
Big Olaf Creamery’s Cattlemen Road production facility has been sued twice since the outbreak began — once over the death of an Illinois woman whose family said she contracted a fatal case of listeria after eating ice cream, and again over the illness of a Massachusetts woman who claimed that Eating Big Olaf’s ice cream caused her to miscarry.
Legal experts say stores that continued to sell the product after the CDC warning expired could expose them to more liability.
Listeriosis causes about 260 deaths annually in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Scientific experts said bacteria are not something health inspectors find in routine checks, so companies need to have robust environmental monitoring programs in place to check them.
It can enter a facility through unpasteurized milk, fruit, or nuts and can live indefinitely until detected and handled. Once detected, it can be difficult to clean, as it gets into the nooks and crannies of machines. Experts said a combination of scrub and appropriate chemicals should be used to get it out.
Since the outbreak, several Big Olaf retail locations have pivoted alongside Bazso to sell other ice creams. The Venice store was selling Hershey’s and used the St. Armand’s Department site Yoder Southern Creamery.
The investigation is continuing
The recall was issued on the advice of the state health department and its partner agencies, according to a state official. The Department of Health had previously advised Big Olaf not to sell its ice cream after the Listeria link was discovered, but many of the company’s websites have continued to do so anyway.
The Department of Agriculture collected samples July 5 from the Big Olaf production facility, through which the ice cream is distributed to independently licensed Big Olaf locations and to other retail partners, such as Twistee Treat in North Fort Myers and Beverly’s Ice Cream in Clearwater Beach.
The CDC has warned anyone with a recalled Big Olaf Creamery at home to dispose of it and clean any areas, containers, and serving utensils that may have touched the recalled ice cream.
Companies are advised to “clean and disinfect any areas and equipment that may have come into contact with recalled ice cream products, including ice cream scoops and other serving utensils.”
According to the CDC, listeriosis is more likely to infect pregnant women, their newborns, adults 65 or older, and people with weakened immune systems. Other people can get a Listeria infection, but they rarely become seriously ill.
They advise people to contact their healthcare provider immediately if they have any of these listeria symptoms: Pregnant people usually only have fever, fatigue, and muscle aches. However, Listeria infection during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, or a life-threatening infection for the newborn, the CDC says.
People who are not pregnant may experience headaches, neck stiffness, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions, as well as fever and muscle aches.
The CDC said 12 of the patients reported are Florida residents and nine said they traveled to Florida before they got sick. “The illnesses began on dates ranging from January 24, 2021, to June 12, 2022,” the CDC investigation summary says.
The ages of these patients ranged from less than 1 year to 92 years. Five people contracted the disease during pregnancy, and one of them resulted in the loss of the fetus, the agency said.
Recent illnesses may not have been reported yet due to delays in determining whether a sick person was part of the outbreak.
“Public health officials continue to interview people about the foods they ate before they got sick,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. “…Seven patients were identified as part of three disease groups in this outbreak. A disease group is defined as two or more people who do not live in the same household and report eating from the same retail location before becoming sick.
“If several unrelated patients ate food from the same retail location, this indicated that contaminated food was served or sold there. The three disease clusters were at the retail locations selling Big Olaf Creamery’s ice cream.”