'Do not eat': CDC warns against Big Olaf ice cream; 2nd lawsuit filed in listeria outbreak

The nation's top public health agency once again encouraged people to discard Big Olaf Creamery's ice cream on Friday, a day after a woman filed a lawsuit alleging contaminated product from the company caused her to miscarry.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert on Friday, advising consumers against eating ice cream from the Sarasota company. This is the second time in less than a week that the CDC has advised against eating Big Olaf because it has been linked to listeria. The agency said it's concerned that the ice cream could still be in people's homes or for sale in stores.

Several Big Olaf retail locations opted to continue selling ice cream this week even after the public health agency first linked it to listeria July 2.

"Do not eat Big Olaf Creamery ice cream and throw away any leftovers," the CDC tweeted Friday. "Businesses should not serve or sell it. CDC is working to determine if any other products are linked to illnesses."

What is listeria, the bacteria linked to the Big Olaf outbreak? Find out here.

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The Florida Department of Health said late Friday -- also on Twitter -- that it is actively investigating the multi-state listeria outbreak linked to Big Olaf Creamery. In the same tweet, the health department included a link to a news report from FOX 13 Tampa Bay that said the company has agreed to recall its product.

A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health did not immediately confirm this report or return the Herald-Tribune's request for more information on Friday.

The CDC's warning came a day after a second lawsuit related to the listeria outbreak was filed. Kristen Hopkins and Frank Imbruglia of Massachusetts are suing Big Olaf's Cattlemen Road production operation and a Clearwater ice cream parlor for allegedly selling them contaminated ice cream, which the lawsuit alleges led to the loss of Hopkins' pregnancy.

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Listeria is a type of bacteria with many different strains. The bacterium Listeria monocytogenes causes a disease called listeriosis, which is usually contracted after a patient eats something contaminated by the bacteria, according to the CDC. Soft cheeses with unpasteurized milk, raw sprouts, melons, lunch meats, smoked fish and raw milk -- including product made into soft cheese, ice cream and yogurt -- are all places where harmful bacteria, including listeria, can be found, according to the CDC.

The Big Olaf Creamery production facility at 2001 Cattleman Rd., Unit 123 in Sarasota, Florida. The CDC issued another advisory on Friday, telling people not to eat Big Olaf ice cream. A second lawsuit has also been filed against the company.
The Big Olaf Creamery production facility at 2001 Cattleman Rd., Unit 123 in Sarasota, Florida. The CDC issued another advisory on Friday, telling people not to eat Big Olaf ice cream. A second lawsuit has also been filed against the company.

Second lawsuit against Big Olaf: Woman miscarried after contracting listeria

According to the lawsuit, Hopkins ate Big Olaf-branded frozen dessert at Beverly's Ice Cream in Clearwater on two separate occasions in May 2022 while the family was in town for a wedding. At the time, Hopkins was 11 weeks pregnant with what she and Imbruglia had hoped would be their third child.

After returning home to Massachusetts May 17, the lawsuit said Hopkins had an appointment with a doctor, when she was told her baby was healthy. But by May 31, Hopkins had mild cramping and persistent diarrhea, which didn't improve with time. She started experiencing intense headaches on June 11, and the next day she woke up pale, shivering and fatigued. Imbruglia drove her to the hospital, and it was there that they found out their baby had died, the suit said.

At that point, the lawsuit said, Hopkins was transferred to a higher-level hospital, where she suffered from convulsions and head and neck pain. She was then brought into the operating room, where a doctor removed her baby boy from her uterus. Then, she was transferred to the intensive care unit for close observation and treatment with strong antibiotics.

Doctors informed Hopkins that her condition was critical and that it might require a hysterectomy, the lawsuit said. She continued to be in "horrific" physical and emotional pain until she was discharged June 17, the lawsuit said. Hopkins continued to receive home health care after leaving the hospital,  but she still has not fully regained her strength.

A blood culture taken tested positive for listeria monocytogenes, the lawsuit said, and subsequent testing found that it matched the outbreak strain through whole genome sequencing.

The suit claimed losses from the pregnancy, pain and suffering, mental anguish and other factors.

Big Olaf’s production facility did not immediately return a request for comment on the lawsuit Friday evening.

The Hopkins lawsuit followed another filed Tuesday by the estate of Mary Billman, an Illinois woman who allegedly ate ice cream at Big Olaf's Bahia Vista Street location in Sarasota in January and died several days later.

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A statement from Big Olaf posted to the Facebook page for the production facility earlier this week said that nothing had been linked to Big Olaf yet, despite contrary warnings from the CDC and the Florida Department of Health. Several Big Olaf retail locations echoed that sentiment on Sunday and many continued to operate throughout the week, despite public health warnings.

"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 company wrote on Facebook.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said this week that it's currently testing Big Olaf ice cream samples collected on Tuesday.

The CDC said July 2 that the outbreak of listeria caused 23 illnesses and one death in ten states.

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This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Big Olaf ice cream listeria outbreak: CDC says throw products away