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A mother-of-two who suffered a miscarriage after eating ice cream laced with listeria is suing its manufacturer, a lawsuit revealed today.
Kristen Hopkins, was visiting Clearwater, Florida, for a family wedding when she ate a frozen sweet treat from Big Olaf Creamery in late May.
The mother — then 11-weeks pregnant with a baby boy — flew home to Billerica, Massachusetts, but a week later began to suffer mild cramps and ‘persistent’ indigestion. When she woke up one morning pale and shivering, husband Frank Imbruglia rushed her to hospital.
Doctors there diagnosed her with listeriosis, and said her baby had already died. She had told family members about the pregnancy during the wedding just weeks earlier that was also attended by daughers Natalia, 5, and Amelia, seven months.
It is the second case to be brought against the ice cream maker after the family of Mary Billman, a grandmother-of-eight who died from the infection, also filed against them. Billman, who ate contaminated ice cream on January 18, died 11 days later after the infection spread to her spinal fluid and brain.
Testing by health officials showed 16 of 17 ice cream flavors manufactured by the company were contaminated with listeria, prompting a major recall. A total of 23 people became ill during the outbreak, and 22 were hospitalized. Five were also pregnant.
Big Olaf Creamery claimed early last month that the listeria has not been definitively linked to its ice cream.
Kristen Hopkins and husband Frank Imbruglia told family members at a wedding that Hopkins was 11 weeks pregnant with a baby boy. They had flown to Clearwater, Florida, where Hopkins ate the frozen sweet treat from Big Olaf Creamery
Kristen Hopkins pictured above with husband Frank Imbruglia and children Natalia, 5, and Amelia, seven months. The family live in Billerica, Massachusetts, but had been in Florida for a family wedding
A total of 16 of 17 flavors at Big Olaf Creamery had tested positive for listeria. The brand has previously insisted it has not been linked to the outbreak
Hopkins’ lawsuit was filed at Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court in early July.
The couple are also suing the owner’s of Beverly’s Ice Cream, the store from which they say they purchased the listeria-infected ice cream.
Listeriosis is a potentially deadly infection — sparked by the bacteria listeria — contracted through eating contaminated food, such as unpausterized milk or unwashed vegetables.
Listeria is a bacteria that infects people through contaminated food
WHAT IT IS, THE RISKS, AND HOW TO AVOID IT
- Listeria is everywhere in the environment
- It’s a type of bacterium that infects humans and other warm-blooded animals through contaminated food
- It’s found in dirty water, irrigation water, soil and fertiliser
- Soft cheeses such as Camembert; cold chicken and deli meats; raw seafood and cold seafood such as smoked salmon; ice cream, fresh fruit and bagged vegetables can also carry Listeria
- Infection can also occur through contact with animals and pests and insufficient cleaning of contaminated fruit and unclean hands
WHO IS SUSCEPTIBLE … AND THE SYMPTOMS
- Pregnant women, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are most at risk
- Listeria starts with flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea and sometimes diarrhoea
- The time from consuming the bacterium to showing the signs of illness can often be between 8 to 90 days
- Some people end up in hospital with dehydration
HOW TO AVOID IT
- Don’t buy bruised or damaged fruit, wash it before eating and refrigerate within two hours of slicing
- Avoid foods past their ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date
- Cook foods thoroughly
- Reheat food until it is steaming hot
- Refrigerate leftovers promptly and use within 24 hours, or freeze
- Ready to eat food should never be stored in the fridge for too long as Listeria is one of the few pathogens that can grow in the refrigerator
Source: Food Authority NSW, Food Safety Information Council
Early in infection patients may suffer fever and diarrhoea, which can progress to confusion, loss of balance and seizures should the disease spread in the body.
Listeria is particularly dangerous in pregnant women, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and ‘usually leads to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery or life-threatening infection of the newborn’.
It is also more risky among people over the age of 65 and people who have a weakened immune system due to an underlying condition.
About 1,600 cases are detected in America annually, of which 260 — or 16 percent — are fatal.
In the filing, the couple say Hopkins is ’emotionally distraught’ over the ‘traumatic loss of her baby’ and two months later has ‘not fully regained her strength’.
The couple — who married in December — fear the incident has impacted their fertility.
After being told her baby had died during the hospital visit on June 12, Hopkins’ condition continued to deteriorate.
She was rushed to the ICU where she suffered seizures, and doctors also performed a procedure to remove her dead baby.
At one point the family was advised her situation was ‘critical’ and that she may need a hysterectomy — ending the chance of another pregnancy, the filing says.
Blood tests revealed she was infected with listeria, with further swabs showing this matched the strain involved in the outbreak.
Hopkins was discharged from hospital on June 17, but still required regular care from a home health nurse.
Big Olaf Creamery insisted in a statement on July 3 that the link between listeria and its ice cream had not been confirmed.
‘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,’ it said.
DailyMail.com has reached out to the company for further comment.
Revealing the outbreak in June, the CDC said that all 23 patients across 10 states had recently visited Florida.
It connected the outbreak to Big Olaf Creamery in a June 30 food safety alert.
Among flavors that tested positive for listeria were blueberry cheesecake, chocolate, cookie dough, vanilla and white chocolate raspberry.
Listeria has also been detected at their processing facility in Sarasota, Florida.
The ice creams had been sold at Big Olaf retailers, restaurants and senior homes in Florida and one place in Ohio.