SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — A national listeria outbreak that left one person dead is linked to a Sarasota-based ice cream company, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Listeria can cause severe illness when the bacteria spreads beyond the gut to other parts of the body. It can cause common food poisoning symptoms, like diarrhea and fever. Big Olaf Creamery said despite the CDC linking a listeria outbreak to its’ company, it is not sure why only Big Olaf is being mentioned and targeted.

The CDC reports 23 listeria illnesses and one death across multiple states linked to Big Olaf starting in January. Listeria is most likely to sicken pregnant people and their newborns, adults aged 65 or older, and people with weakened immune systems, according to the agency. Other people can be infected with Listeria, but they rarely become seriously ill.

“I’m disappointed for them because I think they have a good reputation and I don’t think they’ve ever had a problem like this before,” said Mary Barry, a customer.

Big Olaf Creamery shared a statement on social media reading:

For now it is only speculation as it is an ongoing investigation, our brand has not been confirmed to be linked to these cases, am not sure why only Big Olaf is being mentioned and targeted. The original report we got from the Florida Department of Health on Friday July 1st, was that there are 23 cases reported, the first one reported was January 2022. 6 out of the 23 patients mentioned having consumed Big Olaf ice cream, but nothing has been proven. We have been cooperating with the Florida Department of Health, FDACS and the FDA as soon as we were informed about 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.

Statement from Big Olaf Creamery

The CDC investigation revealed, “Of the 17 people interviewed, 14 people reported eating ice cream. Among 13 people who remembered details about the type of ice cream they ate, six reported eating Big Olaf Creamery brand ice cream or eating ice cream at locations that might have been supplied by Big Olaf Creamery.”

Dr. Washington Hill is a maternal fetal medicine specialist. He said listeria poses a great risk to pregnant women. The infection can be passed on to unborn babies.

“There could be a miscarriage, still birth, or if the baby is born it could be in the ICU,” said Dr. Hill.

Although he says that’s rare accounting for about 5% of cases. If you’re pregnant and recently ate Big Olaf’s ice cream, Hill recommends giving your doctor a call regardless if you have symptoms or not.

“It’s a very common infection in dairy products,” he said.

“I feel like these outbreaks can happen anytime anywhere and I wouldn’t go to the ice cream shop now but that wouldn’t stop me in the future when this is cleared up,” said Barry.

People who have Big Olaf Creamery ice cream at home should throw it away.