A Florida ice cream maker refuses to recall while officials investigate, despite being linked to a listeria outbreak that has killed two and sickened dozens.
The Florida Department of Health is urging consumers not to eat the ice cream from the 25-year-old, family-run Big Olaf Creamery in Sarasota, Florida, as part of the investigation.
According to the agency spokesman, Jeremy Redfern, Big Olaf was instructed to “suspend sales and production until notice,” but the company seems to be defying that order.
“They said they would start contacting their distributors, advising them not to sell the product,” Redfern said. “We expected them to do so, but judging by what we’ve heard reported in the media and what the company has posted on its social media, it looks like they continue to ship and make the product.”
According to Redfern, the Florida Department of Health has no power to force a recall of the ice cream company, as other state agencies do.
He stated that the organization is still looking into the situation. “We don’t know for certain that the creamery is responsible for the outbreak, but there is epidemiological evidence pointing to it.”
The CDC advises consumers to throw away any remaining product while investigating 22 hospitalizations and one death linked to the brand.
“For now, it is only speculation as it is an ongoing investigation. Our brand has not been confirmed to be linked to these cases,” the company wrote on Facebook. “I am not sure why only Big Olaf is being mentioned and targeted,” adding that “nothing has been proven” and that it has been cooperating with state and federal authorities.
According to the company’s website, there are 15 authorized Big Olaf creameries in Florida. The product is also sold at Senior homes, restaurants, fairs, and supermarkets.
Mary Billman’s family is suing Big Olaf after she passed away from listeria 11 days after consuming tainted ice cream. Another woman is suing the company after she claims that eating the ice cream caused her to miscarry her baby.
According to government reports, all but one of the 23 confirmed victims were hospitalized with severe symptoms.
Ten states have been affected by the outbreak, which began in January. Residents live in Florida, where Big Olaf is exclusively sold or traveled there during the outbreak.
Big Olaf says “every tub” of its ice cream is “hand mixed with the finest ingredients and is then churned in batch freezers by local Amish Craftsmen,” according to its website. “The smooth, creamery consistency comes from two sources: attention to detail, and fresh, high butter fat (14%) milk.”