CDC Links Florida Ice Cream to a Listeria Outbreak

(Miami) — The estate of an Illinois woman who died earlier this year from a listeria infection filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against a Florida ice cream company that health officials have connected to a multistate outbreak.

Mary Billman, a plaintiff in the Middle District of Florida alleges that she died from contaminated Big Olaf Creamery ice cream. The lawsuit claims that Billman visited a Big Olaf Creamery on January 18 while visiting Florida. The plaintiff became unwell and passed away Jan. 29, 2009.

Online court records didn’t list an attorney for Big Olaf who could comment about the lawsuit. A statement was released by the company Sunday stating that there is no evidence linking its ice-cream to the outbreak. It also stated that speculation about the connection between the ice-cream and listeria has been dismissed. Since being informed of possible contamination, the company said that it has worked with federal and state officials to address 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 well being of the public is our first priority,” the Big Olaf Creamery statement said.

Big Olaf Creamery volunteered to contact retail stores and recommend that they not sell their ice cream products. This was according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention news release. Officials suggested that any Big Olaf Creamery brand icecream at home be thrown away.

Listeria, a potentially deadly bacteria, can cause symptoms such as fever, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and even diarrhea. Although it can be treated with antibiotics but is particularly dangerous for pregnant women, infants, elderly people, and others with compromised immune systems, Listeria should not be taken lightly.

Officials with the CDC claim that almost all 23 victims of this outbreak were infected by the virus in Florida. They either moved to Florida in the last month or lived there. 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.

Listeria is the most serious form of food poisoning. Listeria symptoms can begin as early as one day after eating contaminated food. According to CDC officials, the first case occurred in January. However, symptoms continued throughout June. Two people were hospitalized.

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