The deadly Big Olaf ice cream Listeria outbreak is spotlighting the tremendous risk Listeria poses to pregnant women. One-fifth of the people who developed Listeria infections after eating contaminated Big Olaf ice cream were pregnant when they became ill. One of them suffered a miscarriage.
Listeria poses a heightened risk to pregnant women who are 10 times more likely than the general population to contract listeriosis, 24 times more likely if they are Hispanic. And when they do become sick, pregnant women can suffer miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, and infection in newborns even if the expectant mother experiences only mild illness.
Why Are Pregnant Women at High Risk?
Years ago, pregnant women were thought to be at elevated risk for Listeria infections because their immune systems were suppressed. But researchers at the University of California, Berkeley discovered that when a pregnant woman eats food contaminated with Listeria, the bacteria makes its way to the placenta where it hides from the immune system multiplying in great numbers before invading the rest of the body.
Symptoms of a Listeria infection include high fever, stiff neck, headache, chills, muscle aches, loss of balance, diarrhea and upset stomach. Usually, these symptoms develop within one to 14 days of exposure but sometimes they can take as long as 70 days to appear.
Big Olaf Ice Cream Listeria Outbreak
This outbreak includes 25 illnesses, one death, and one miscarriage. The illnesses were reported from January 24, 2021, through June 24, 2022, among patients ranging in age from less than 1 year old to 92 years old.
Illnesses were reported from people living in Colorado (1), Florida (12), Georgia (1), Illinois (1), Kansas (1), Massachusetts (2), Minnesota (1), Nebraska (1), New Jersey (1), New York (2) and Pennsylvania (1). Although the illnesses were reported from 11 states, most of the patients live in or visited Florida before they became ill. (Other than one location in Ohio, Florida is the only state where Big Olaf ice cream is sold.)
Health officials have interviewed 21 of the patients, 18 said they ate ice cream in the month before they got sick. Ten of them remembered eating Big Olaf ice cream or eating ice cream at locations that served Big Olaf ice cream.
Genetic tests were performed on samples of Big Olaf ice cream and environmental samples collected from the company’s manufacturing plant in Sarasota, FL. These tests show that the genetic “fingerprint” of the samples from ice cream, the plant, and the patients match. This establishes a clear link between the ice cream and the illnesses.
Big Olaf Listeria Recall
On July 13, Big Olaf issued a recall for all of its ice cream. Recalled Big Olaf ice cream was sold to consumers in plastic pint and half-gallon containers; ice cream shops served the ice cream from 2.5-gallon tubs.
Big Olaf was served at Florida ice cream shops including locations St. Armands, Pinecraft, Siesta Key, Lakewood Ranch, Bee Ridge Plaza, Venice, Clearwater Beach, Treasure Island, and St. Pete Beach, FL.
Dairy Products are a Leading Source of Listeria Outbreaks
Dairy products are a leading cause of Listeria outbreaks in the U.S. One reason is that Listeria thrives in cold temperatures and in areas where moisture collects. Because of this known risk, companies that make food are supposed to monitor and control for Listeria and other foodborne pathogens.
Between 2011 and 2022, 25 multistate Listeria outbreaks were announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Eleven of them were linked to dairy products – cheese (8), ice cream (2), and raw milk (1). Pregnant women were among those sickened in eight of the 11 Listeria outbreaks linked to dairy products.
Experienced Listeria Lawyers
If you developed a Listeria infection after eating Big Olaf ice cream and would like to discuss your legal options, please contact our Listeria lawyers. Our Food Safety Team has more experience handling Listeria lawsuits than any other law firm in the country securing some of the largest Listeria settlements in U.S. history including a recent award of $6.4 million.