Federal agencies helping Florida investigate listeria outbreak linked to ice cream

23 people known to have been infected in the outbreak, health officials say

The Food and Drug Administration, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is helping the Florida Department of Health and Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services investigate a listeria outbreak linked to ice cream, the FDA said Tuesday.

Ice cream products of Big Olaf Creamery are a likely source of illness in the outbreak, health officials said.

According to the CDC, nearly all the 23 people known to have been infected in the outbreak either live in, or traveled to, Florida about a month before they got sick. One person from Illinois died and one pregnant woman lost her fetus, the CDC said. The first cases occurred in January of this year but have continued through June, when two of the people got sick, CDC officials said.

Big Olaf Creamery’s ice cream is produced at a central facility in Sarasota and then distributed to Big Olaf Creamery stores and other retailers.

The company has voluntarily contacted retail locations to recommend against selling their ice cream products, the CDC said. According to officials, consumers who have Big Olaf Creamery brand ice cream at home should throw away any remaining product and follow the FDA’s safe handling and cleaning advice and use extra vigilance in cleaning and sanitizing any surfaces and containers that may have come in contact with these products to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. Listeria can survive in refrigerated temperatures and can easily spread to other foods and surfaces.

“FDA is concerned that retailers may still be selling Big Olaf ice cream products. Retailers should not sell or serve Big Olaf ice cream products and should throw them away. Consumers who may still have these products in their freezers should not eat or serve any Big Olaf ice cream products and should also throw the product away,” the FDA stressed Tuesday.

Listeria is one of the most dangerous forms of food poisoning. Symptoms usually start one to four weeks after eating contaminated food but can start as soon as the same day. It’s a deadly bacteria that causes symptoms like fever, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhea. It can be treated with antibiotics, but it is especially dangerous to pregnant women, newborns, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

This is an ongoing investigation.