With 10 hepatitis A cases linked to frozen strawberries used by Tropical Smoothie Café in Virginia, and health officials saying the hep A strain has been associated with past outbreaks due to frozen strawberries from Egypt, the Egyptians are now investigating.
Egypt Independent cites Agriculture Ministry spokesman Edi Hawash as saying the U.S. has not officially informed Egypt of the claims, but the claims are being investigated anyway.
Agriculture Minister Essam Fayed has formed a committee, headed by the chairman of the Union of Egyptian Exporters, to investigate the issue, Hawash added.
He said that recent tests conducted on random samples of exported strawberries have shown no cases of the virus.
Hussein al-Hinnawi, the president of the Union of Producers and Exporters of Horticultural Crops, said he doubts that the reported hepatitis-A infections were caused by frozen Egyptian strawberries.
He said Egyptian strawberries are scrutinized at competent laboratories prior to export. Moreover, exporters have full awareness of good practice through the stages of production, transfer and export, Hinnawi said.
Egypt ranks first among Arab countries in the production and export of strawberries, exporting about 40,000,000 tons of fresh and frozen strawberries to 30 countries in Europe, America, Southeast Asia and the Gulf states, according to Al-Ahram.
Tropical Smoothie Cafe voluntarily withdrew all of the strawberries sourced from Egypt and found an alternate supply.