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Woman miscarries after she got listeria from ice cream in Clearwater, suit says

A Massachusetts couple filed a lawsuit saying she fell ill after eating Big Olaf ice cream, which has been linked to a listeria outbreak.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned consumers to throw away ice cream from Big Olaf Creamery in Sarasota after it was tied to an outbreak of listeria.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned consumers to throw away ice cream from Big Olaf Creamery in Sarasota after it was tied to an outbreak of listeria. [ TIFFANY TOMPKINS | Bradenton Herald ]
Published Aug. 2|Updated Aug. 2

A pregnant woman miscarried after she ate Big Olaf Creamery ice cream contaminated with listeria while visiting Clearwater Beach for a family wedding, according to a lawsuit.

Kristen Hopkins, a Massachusetts mother of two, was 11 weeks pregnant when she and her family visited Florida in mid-May, according to the July lawsuit filed in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court.

She ate ice cream produced by Sarasota-based Big Olaf Creamery that was sold at Beverly’s Ice Cream, which is located at the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa, says the lawsuit against the company and the shop.

Related: Recalled Sarasota ice cream had Listeria in 16 of 17 tested flavors, officials say

The Florida Department of Health confirmed last month that Big Olaf Creamery agreed to recall its ice cream from store shelves after public health officials linked the company to a listeria outbreak.

Health officials said nearly all of the 23 people known to have been infected in the outbreak either live in or traveled to Florida before they got sick. Twenty-two of the infected were hospitalized, and one died.

The Tampa Bay Times was not able to reach Big Olaf Creamery and Beverly’s Ice Cream for comment Tuesday. The defendants have not responded to the recent lawsuit, court records show. No attorneys are listed for them.

After Hopkins returned home from the wedding, where she and her husband announced the pregnancy, she learned that her baby was a healthy boy, according to the lawsuit.

But by late May, she had developed “mild cramping” and “persistent diarrhea.” Her stomach pain later worsened and she developed an intense headache, the lawsuit says.

Her husband, Frank Imbruglia, drove her to a hospital in mid-June after she woke up pale, shivering and fatigued.

“There, Plaintiffs received the heartbreaking news that their baby was dead,” the lawsuit says.

Related: Sarasota-based Big Olaf Creamery agrees to recall ice cream after listeria outbreak

Hopkins, suffering from convulsions and head and neck pain, was transferred to another hospital. A doctor removed her baby from her uterus and she was admitted into an intensive care unit, according to the lawsuit.

She was discharged in mid-June and still needs follow-up care, according to the lawsuit.

“To this day, she has not fully regained her strength and is emotionally distraught over the traumatic loss of her baby,” the lawsuit alleges.

Hopkins and Imbruglia are seeking a jury trial and an unspecified amount in damages.

The creamery on July 1 halted production of its ice cream products, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In a food safety alert issued last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised Florida residents and businesses to immediately throw away and cease selling ice cream produced by Big Olaf Creamery.

In early July, the company said in a Facebook post, “For now it is only speculation ... our brand has not been confirmed to be linked to these cases.”

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The company said it was cooperating with investigators.

Florida officials later announced that of 17 Big Olaf Creamery flavors tested, 16 had listeria monocytogenes present — a bacteria that can cause severe disease.

Listeria is one of the most dangerous forms of food poisoning. An Illinois woman’s death has been linked to the contaminated ice cream from Big Olaf Creamery, according to court records.

Pregnant people and their newborns, those 65 and older and individuals with weakened immune systems are at a higher risk of serious illness.

Related: Amid Listeria outbreak, officials urge Floridians to throw out Sarasota ice cream brand

The Associated Press contributed information to this report.

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