A mother of two who miscarried after eating ice cream with listeria is suing the manufacturer, according to a lawsuit.
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, only to experience mild cramping and an “ongoing” digestive upset a week later. When she woke up pale and shivering one morning, husband Frank Imbruglia rushed her to the hospital.
Doctors there diagnosed her with listeriosis and said her baby had already died. She had told relatives about the pregnancy at the wedding just weeks earlier, which was also attended by daughters Natalia, 5, and Amelia, seven months.
It is the second case brought against the ice cream maker, after the family of Mary Billman, a grandmother of eight who died of the infection, also filed against them. Billman, who ate contaminated ice cream on Jan. 18, died 11 days later after the infection spread to her spinal fluid and brain.
Testing by health officials showed that 16 of the 17 ice cream flavors manufactured by the company were contaminated with listeria, triggering 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 is not definitively linked to its ice cream.
Kristen Hopkins and husband Frank Imbruglia told relatives at a wedding that Hopkins was 11 weeks pregnant with a baby boy. They had flown to Clearwater, Florida, where Hopkins ate Big Olaf Creamery’s frozen sweet treat
Kristen Hopkins pictured above with husband Frank Imbruglia and children Natalia, 5, and Amelia, seven months. The family lives in Billerica, Massachusetts, but had been to Florida for a family wedding
In total, 16 of the 17 flavors at Big Olaf Creamery tested positive for listeria. The brand has previously insisted it is not associated with the outbreak
Hopkins’ lawsuit was filed in the Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court in early July.
The couple is also suing the owners of Beverly’s Ice Cream, the store they say bought the listeria-contaminated ice cream.
Listeriosis is a potentially deadly infection – fueled by the bacteria listeria – that is contracted from eating contaminated food, such as uncooked milk or unwashed vegetables.
Listeria is a bacterium that infects humans through contaminated food
WHAT IT IS, THE RISKS AND HOW TO AVOID IT?
- Listeria is all around the area
- It is a type of bacteria that infects humans and other warm-blooded animals through contaminated food
- It is found in dirty water, irrigation water, soil and fertilizer
- Soft cheeses such as Camembert; cold chicken and cold cuts; raw seafood and cold seafood such as smoked salmon; ice cream, fresh fruits and packaged vegetables can also carry Listeria
- Contamination can also occur through contact with animals and vermin and insufficient cleaning of contaminated fruit and unclean hands
WHO IS DANGEROUS…AND THE SYMPTOMS
- Pregnant women, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems are most at risk
- Listeria begins with flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, and sometimes diarrhea
- The time between consuming the bacteria and showing symptoms of disease can often be between 8 and 90 days
- Some people end up in hospital with dehydration
HOW TO AVOID IT?
- Do not buy bruised or damaged fruit, wash it before eating and refrigerate within two hours of cutting
- Avoid foods that have passed their use-by date or use-by date
- Cook food thoroughly
- Heat food until steaming hot
- Store leftovers in the fridge immediately and use them within 24 hours, or freeze them
- Ready-to-eat foods should never be kept in the refrigerator for too long, as Listeria is one of the few pathogens that can grow in the refrigerator
Source: NSW Food Authority, Food Safety Information Council
Early in the infection, patients may develop a fever and diarrhea, which can lead to confusion, loss of balance and seizures as the disease spreads in the body.
Listeria is especially dangerous in pregnant women, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and “usually leads to miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm birth, or life-threatening infection of the newborn.”
It’s also more risky in people over 65 and those with immune systems weakened by an underlying condition.
About 1,600 cases are discovered annually in America, of which 260 — or 16 percent — are fatal.
On the file, 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 may have affected their fertility.
After she was 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 started having seizures, and doctors also performed a procedure to remove her dead baby.
At one point, the family was told her situation was “critical” and that she may need a hysterectomy — which would end the chances of another pregnancy, the filing said.
Blood tests showed she was infected with listeria, and further swabs showed it matched the strain involved in the outbreak.
Hopkins was released from the hospital on June 17, but still needed regular care from a home 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 any information requested of us, as the health and well-being of the public is our number one priority,” it said.
DailyMail.com has contacted the company for further comment.
The CDC disclosed the outbreak in June and said all 23 patients in 10 states had recently visited Florida.
It linked the outbreak to Big Olaf Creamery in a June 30 food safety alert.
Among the 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 were sold at Big Olaf stores, restaurants and retirement homes in Florida and one town in Ohio.