By John Morton
A warning was issued July 2 by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention that linked, at least in part, Sarasota-based Big Olaf Creamery to an outbreak of listeria that has caused one death and 22 hospitalizations in 10 states.
It recommended that any Big Olaf ice cream be thrown out and that consumers should clean any areas, containers, and serving utensils that may have touched Big Olaf ice cream products. The CDC also said that Big Olaf’s headquarters in Sarasota’s Pinecraft neighborhood is voluntarily contacting retail locations to recommend against selling its ice cream products until further notice.
Big Olaf’s Siesta Key location, which has stood in the Village at 5208 Ocean Blvd. for 40 years, closed its doors Sunday as the investigation continues. The separately owned Big Olaf shop in The Landings at 4862 S. Tamiami Trail remained open as of Sunday.
Christian Ziegler, whose District 2 seat on the Sarasota County Board of Commissioners represents Siesta Key’s northern half, backed the warning after consulting with the county’s health department.
“Big Olaf is great, but take a break,” he said. “They are pulling their product as well. Throw away any product you have at home.”
Ziegler said flu-like symptoms such as fever and diarrhea usually appear within days and go away, “but can get more serious is you aren’t treated for listeria.
“Symptoms can start two to three weeks after consuming the product. So, if you have eaten at Big Olaf within the last three weeks and get fever-like symptoms, go get tested ASAP. They can treat this – it only becomes an issue if you don’t get diagnosed. The elderly and pregnant women are most at risk.”
Among the hospitalizations is one that involved a fetal death.
According to the CDC, listeria can cause severe illness (known as invasive listeriosis) when the bacteria spread beyond the gut to other parts of the body.
Ziegler shared this comment from a Big Olaf spokesperson:
“For now it is only speculation as it is an ongoing investigation. Our brand has not been confirmed to be linked to these cases. I am not sure why only Big Olaf is being mentioned and targeted.
“The original report we got from the Florida Department of Health on July 1 was that there are 23 cases reported. The first one reported was January 2022. Six 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.”
Added Ziegler, who noted that his family regularly eats at Siesta Key’s Big Olaf shop, “Big Olaf is a great business, so once they are in the clear let’s all rally together to support them.”