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Local ice cream shops rebrand, cut ties with Big Olaf and switch to new supplier

A listeria outbreak is being blamed for sickening more than 20 people across 10 states, and a lawsuit claims one woman died as a result.

Several local ice cream shops have not just rid themselves of their supply of Big Olaf ice cream, many of them have also cut business ties with the brand after regulators say a listeria outbreak linked to a Sarasota factory was discovered this month. 

The owners of an ice cream shop on Cattlemen Road, which used to sell the Big Olaf brand of ice cream and was branded with the logo, wrote on their social media page that they are changing their name to Blue Pineapple.

According to the message, the shop will still be selling locally-produced ice cream but be stocked by a different supplier that health experts had not tied to the outbreak.

Two lawsuits have been filed against Big Olaf Creamery, including one that claims a great-grandmother died after eating contaminated ice cream in Sarasota.

"My concern is how the factory was operating for a long time and the fact that they continued to operate even after they knew they were under investigation before Fourth of July," said William D. Marler, the lawyer for the family of the late Mary Billman.

The listeria outbreak is blamed for sickening more than 20 people across 10 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Amid the situation, McClain's Ice Cream has now tentatively taken on a significant number of clients who had previously relied on Big Olaf to deliver their supply of ice cream.

"It will carry a stigma for them right now and I really feel bad for that because they are really nice people," said Robert Alfarone of McClain's Ice Cream, Sarasota.

An investigation by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services found Big Olaf factory equipment was unsanitary and 16 of 17 ice cream flavors were contaminated with listeria pathogens.

The CDC says listeria is known to frequently hospitalize people who consume contaminated food, and in some cases, even kill them.

10 Tampa Bay reached out directly to the owners of the ice cream shops that switched to the Blue Pineapple brand, but they declined to comment further on the matter.

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