30 sick; Hepatitis A outbreak linked to frozen berries in US; same source as EU outbreaks?

This is starting to sound like so many sprout outbreaks, where seed is contaminated at source, distributed globally, and outbreaks stop popping up that eventually prove related.

State and federal health officials are investigating an outbreak of hepatitis A in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday frozen.strawberryapproximately 30 cases have been reported.

CDC says the cases are “potentially associated” with Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend frozen berries purchased from Costco.

Attorney Bill Gaar, representing Townsend Farms of Fairview, Ore., says investigators appear to be focusing on imported pomegranate seed that’s in the product.

A Costco spokesman says the company has removed the product from stores and is contacting its members.

Health officials don’t yet know if the product was sold at other stores or markets. They do know that frozen berry blends are often used to make smoothies, frozen bar drinks and other types of desserts and drinks. One concern is that smaller businesses might have bought bulk frozen berries at Costco and then used them in other products.

According to the label, the berry blend contained pomegranate seeds and other produce from the US, Argentina, Chile, and Turkey.

The strain of hepatitis A in this outbreak is rarely seen in the United States, said CDC’s Lola Russell. It’s known to circulate in North African and the Middle East. The same type of hepatitis A was identified in a 2013 outbreak in Europe linked to frozen berries and another one in 2012 in Canada linked to a frozen berry blend with pomegranate seeds from Egypt, she said.

The berries involved in the European outbreak(s) are from Egypt and Morocco.

I may have some in my freezer. I love the berries, but never thought that in Australia, they’d be coming from wherever. So naïve, and I got a PhD in raspberry.frozenthis stuff.

And there it is, left, on my Creative Gourmet raspberries, which were the least expensive per kg last week.

“We’re still a proudly Australian based. We’ve just got a bit bigger as more and more people realize that frozen fruit is just as nutritious, delicious and easy to use as fresh.

“All this keeps us busy sourcing what’s best in season, from around the world, only choosing fruit that’s bursting with Hepatitis A vitamins and flavour. Then we lovingly pack the fruits of others our labour, so you can enjoy it, all year round.”

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says the first people became ill on April 29 and the most recent on May 21. Five of these cases are Colorado residents. The number of cases in Colorado and in this outbreak may change, because on average it takes 30 days to become ill with hepatitis A after eating contaminated food.

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About Douglas Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of barfblog.com, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here. Dr. Douglas Powell editor, barfblog.com retired professor, food safety 3/289 Annerley Rd Annerley, Queensland 4103 dpowell29@gmail.com 61478222221 I am based in Brisbane, Australia, 15 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time