Employees had nowhere to wash hands at ice cream factory behind listeria outbreak, FDA says

Employees at Big Olaf Creamery, the Florida-based creamery behind a multistate listeria outbreak last year, had nowhere to wash their hands before they entered the production room, according to an investigation conducted by the Food and Drug Administration. The outbreak killed at least one person and hospitalized 27 others across 11 states.

“It was observed that there was no handwash sink outside of the production area for employees to wash and sanitize hands before entering the production room,” the FDA wrote.

The FDA’s investigation found a range of other issues at the ice cream manufacturer that contributed to the outbreak, including a lack of a written food safety plan. Throughout its inspection, the FDA visited the facility 14 times and found that the manufacturer failed to ensure individuals were qualified to “perform their assigned duties and have records documenting food hygiene and food safety training.”

The organization also found that the facility had been recontaminated with listeria while the outbreak was still ongoing last July.

“You did not identify and establish controls related to the hazard of recontamination with environmental pathogens at your facility,” the FDA wrote. “This lack of control was evidenced by recontamination with environmental pathogens during environmental testing on 7/14/22.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, listeria is a bacterial infection caused by eating contaminated food. Those who are pregnant, people over 65 and those with compromised immune systems are most at risk, according to the CDC.

Symptoms can resemble common food poisoning symptoms, including diarrhea and fever, and most people who experience these symptoms recover without treatment.

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