SARASOTA COUNTY (WFLA) — Big Olaf is a well-known name in the Tampa Bay area. The Sarasota-based creamery distributed its product to a number of local ice cream shops for years. Now, as the company remains at the center of a deadly listeria outbreak, local businesses are starting to take the ‘Big Olaf’ name off of their storefronts.
The listeria outbreak has impacted people across ten states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Two lawsuits have already been filed against the Sarasota creamery, one for the death of an Illinois woman and another by a couple who claim they lost their unborn child because of the listeria infection.
Last Friday, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced results of recent product samples taken at the Big Olaf Creamery production facility off Cattlemen Rd.
Of the 17 samples that were taken, 16 tested positive for Listeria, according to FDACS. Those flavors were Blueberry Cheesecake, Butter Pecan, Cherry Cordial, Chocolate, Chocolate Chip, Coconut, Coconut Almond Joy, Cookie Dough, Cookies & Cream, Kahlua Krunch, Mint Chip, Pistachio, Plantation Praline, Superman, Vanilla, and White Chocolate Raspberry.
Because of the results of the lab testing, the FDACS issued a formal stop sales order on the 16 flavors where listeria was found. Before, it was only a voluntary recall.
McClain’s Homemade Ice Cream, another family-owned creamery in Sarasota, has taken over some of Big Olaf’s clientele. Owner Robert Alfarone has been in the ice cream business for twenty years and has been into Big Olaf’s processing facility. He explained their operation is far greater than his own.
“We maybe have a dozen customers or so, they’ve got hundreds. We do 2.5 gallon bags that get poured into each machine individually to make small batches whereas over at Olaf’s, they do 250 gallons at a time going into six machines on a conveyor system and again, the only reason they have to do that is because they are such a large company,” Alfarone explained.
The small business owner admits he was surprised to learn of the outbreak.
“I really feel bad for them because they are really nice people, but unfortunately, when something like this happens, yes… I have had a few other customers tell me already, ‘look no matter what happens Rob, we can’t go back there. We just can’t run that name anymore,” he explained. “That is a stigma that follows you. that it’s kind of tough to get rid of. The only way to keep that out of your shop again, I can’t say it enough, cleanliness, cleanliness, cleanliness,” he continued.
One of the shops now serving Alfarone’s ice cream sits along Cattlemen Road. The business formerly known as Big Olaf Dream announced on social media it plans to change its name to ‘Blue Pineapple’.