April 17, 2024

Soft Serve on the Go is Not the First Ice Cream Listeria Outbreak

Soft Serve on the Go is not the first Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to ice cream. There are four other outbreaks linked to that type of product within the last nine years. And some of them have been deadly. While ice cream is considered “low risk” for causing Listeria infections, illnesses have happened, and the outcomes can be serious.

Soft Serve on the Go is Not the First Ice Cream Listeria Outbreak

Ice cream is uniquely susceptible to Listeria contamination for two reasons. One, there is no kill step before the consumer eats it – the product is ready to eat. That’s why there is zero tolerance for Listeria monocytogenes contamination in ready to eat foods. Second, Listeria monocytogenes colonizes easily in moist and cool locations, typical of most ice cream factories. And ice cream is often served in nursing homes, hospitals, and care facilities, where there are people who are most at risk from severe complications from this infection.

In 2019, the FDA improved ice cream production safety after what they called a “string of safety issues related to a number of U.S. ice cream distributors.” In 2016 and 2017 they found Listeria monocytogenes in 19 of 89 ice cream establishments.

These are the Listeria monocytogenes outbreaks linked to ice cream.

Snoqualmie Ice Cream

In 2014 and 2015, three listeriosis cases were reported in Washington state at the University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC). In December 2014, two patients drank milkshakes made from Snoqualmie ice cream that was recalled for potential Listeria contamination. A third patient was sickened with the same strain of Listeria on December 9, 2015, but that ice cream used was not made by Snoqualmie. Instead, samples taken from the hospital ice cream machine tested positive for Listeria.

Officials believe that Listeria monocytogenes was present in the milk shake machine. That pathogen can survive for long periods and can easily survive cleaning and sanitizing procedures.

UWMC discontinued the use of soft serve ice cream ice cream machines after that third illness.

Blue Bell

In 2015, a Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to Blue Bell ice cream sickened at least 10 people in four states. All ten people were hospitalized, and there were three deaths. Those sickened lived in Arizona, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. The three people who died lived in Kansas. All Blue Bell products currently on the market were recalled in the wake of this outbreak.

In 2020, a Texas court sentenced Blue Bell Creameries to a $17.25 million fine for their role in that outbreak. And in 2020 a former Blue Bell president, Paul Kruse, was charged with wire fraud and conspiracy in connection with an alleged scheme to cover up the company’s sales of contaminated ice cream.

Kruse knew of problems at the Broken Arrow Facility in Oklahoma, including rook leaks, but did not correct those issues. In 2023 the government dismissed all fraud charges against Kruse in exchange to agreeing to a misdemeanor and paying a $100,000 fine.

Working Cow Homemade Ice Cream

This rather strange situation involved an illness announcement in a recall notice. In 2018, Working Cow recalled two varieties of its ice cream. The notice stated, “This recall is being conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration following notification of a recent consumer case in Florida which has been linked to a strain of Listeria monocytogenes found to be present at the Working Cow manufacturing facility during environmental sampling in 2017.”

No FDA or CDC announcement of the illness was made. The FDA suspended Working Cow’s food facility registration as a result of their findings, and the suspension was lifted four months later after the firm changed its business model. They stopped producing ice cream and instead focused on storage and distribution of ice cream that was made by other manufacturers.

Big Olaf Ice Cream

In 2022, 28 people in 13 states were sickened after eating Big Olaf Ice Cream. Those people live in Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Georgia, Pennsylvania, NewYork, and Massachusetts. Twenty seven of those patients were hospitalized, and one person from Illinois died. One illness resulted in a pregnancy loss.

Soft Serve to Go Ice Cream Cups

The current outbreak is linked to Soft Serve to Go Ice Cream Cups. Two people, who live in New York and Pennsylvania, were sickened by that product. The ice cream cups have been recalled by the company, Real Kosher Ice Cream. Both patients were hospitalized.

One patient bought the ice cream cup from a grocery store, and the other likely ate it at a long term care facility. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture found Listeria monocytogenes bacteria in an unopened vanilla chocolate Soft Serve on the Go cup. Whole genome sequencing is underway to see if that pathogen is the outbreak strain.

Frugals Milkshakes

On August 18, 2023, the Washington State Department of Heath announced that a deadly Listeria monocytogenes outbreak was associated with milkshakes served at at the Frugals restaurant in Tacoma, Washington. Six patients were sickened and three of them died. Listeria bacteria was found in all milkshake flavors sold at that restaurant. Officials allege that the milkshake machine was not cleaned correctly.

Attorneys at the Pritzker Hageman Food Safety Law Firm

If you have been sickened with a food poisoning infection, please contact our experienced attorneys for help with a possible lawsuit at 1-888-377-8900 or text us at 612-261-0856. Our firm represents clients in lawsuits against grocery stores, restaurants, and food processors.

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