Frozen berries, you’re breakin’ my heart: Recall in Canada ‘cause of Salmonella

Hain Celestial Canada, ULC is recalling Europe’s Best brand Field Berry Mixes from the marketplace due to possible Salmonella contamination.

This recall was triggered by a recall in another country. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings.

The CFIA is verifying that industry is removing recalled product from the marketplace.

There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these products.

Jimmy Page played it: Song Remains the Same in Ireland for Hep A and Norovirus in berries

I’m conflicted about food safety advice regarding frozen berries.

I love the berries.

melon.berriesBut there have been thousands stricken with Hepatitis A from frozen berries.

At my last annual blood test, I asked the physician to check if I had a titer against Hep A because I couldn’t remember if I got my second shot before coming to Australia.

I had and I have.

A while ago, a food safety type said I was silly for boiling frozen berries.

Yes, it reduces the nutritional value.

But for the thousands who have become sick with Hep A from frozen berries in Europe, as well as dozens in Australia and North America, the advice seems prudent.

And was reiterated by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland yesterday.

Why is the FSAI reiterating its advice to boil imported frozen berries for one minute?
As a result of recent outbreaks of norovirus in Sweden and hepatitis A virus in Australia, both of which have been linked to the consumption of imported frozen berries, the FSAI is reiterating its advice to continue to boil imported frozen berries for one minute before consumption. This is particularly important when serving these foods to vulnerable people such as nursing home residents.
The outbreak in Sweden occurred in a nursing home in the beginning of May, causing 70 people to become ill with norovirus.  Three deaths are reported to have been potentially linked to this outbreak.  Contrary to national food safety advice in Sweden, the frozen imported raspberries were served uncooked in a dessert. Microbiological analysis confirmed the presence of norovirus in the frozen berries.

Could contaminated imported frozen berries be on sale in Ireland?
There is no indication that batches of berries implicated in the recent Swedish and Australian outbreaks have been imported into Ireland. These outbreaks, however, demonstrate an ongoing risk in the global imported frozen berry supply chain.

How do I know if frozen berries are imported?
If the label does not state the country of origin, you should assume that the berries are imported. The shop where you purchased the berries may be able to provide this information.

Will retailers be displaying notices about the requirement to boil imported frozen berries?

frozen-berriesRetailers selling imported frozen berries need to ensure that the berries they use are sourced from reputable suppliers operating effective food safety management systems and comprehensive traceability systems. As the food chain can be quite complex, it is necessary for food businesses at each stage of the food chain to seek assurances regarding the effectiveness of the food safety management systems in place from their suppliers. If such assurances are not available, the FSAI recommends that the retailer displays a notice advising customers that the frozen berries should be boiled for one minute before consumption.

How do I know that the berries used by food businesses (e.g. smoothie bars, cake manufacturers, etc.) are safe to eat?
Food businesses using imported frozen berries need to ensure that the berries they use are sourced from reputable suppliers operating effective food safety management systems and comprehensive traceability systems. As the food chain can be quite complex, it is necessary for food businesses at each stage of the food chain to seek assurances regarding the effectiveness of the food safety management systems in place from their suppliers. If such assurances are not available, the FSAI recommends that the berries should be boiled for one minute before being used in foods.

What if I have some berries in my freezer at home – are these safe to eat?
If the berries are imported you should boil them for one minute before consumption. Boiling for one minute will destroy viruses, if present.

Are fresh berries safe/ok to eat?
There is no evidence to suggest that fresh Irish or fresh imported berries are a risk. Fresh berries should be washed before consumption which is in keeping with the advice for all fresh fruit and vegetables.

Can I eat the berries I grow in my own garden?
Yes, this issue only relates to frozen imported berries and so this advice does not apply to berries grown in your own garden and frozen after picking.

Why are imported frozen berries more of a risk than other types of berries?
Across Europe, more outbreaks have been linked to imported frozen berries than to other types of berries.  Freezing preserves viruses such as norovirus and hepatitis A.

Are all frozen berries a risk?
This safety advice refers to imported frozen berries, such as raspberries, strawberries, redcurrants, blackberries, blackcurrants and blueberries. However, as a precaution, we are advising that all imported frozen berries should be boiled for one minute before consumption.

Are tinned berries also a risk?
No, tinned or canned berries have not been identified as a risk.

What if I have eaten frozen berries recently, without boiling them?
The time from consumption of contaminated food to the onset of illness with hepatitis A, ranges from 15-50 days, with the average being 28 days. In the case of norovirus, symptoms usually appear around 12 to 48 hours after consuming contaminated food.
If you think that you have consumed frozen berries and may be ill as a result, you should seek medical advice. This applies in all cases if you believe that any food you have eaten has made you ill.

Should I stop buying frozen berries?
No, there is no need to stop buying frozen berries. Frozen imported berries should be boiled before eating until further notice.

I have given my toddler/child puree made from frozen berries, should I be worried?
If you are concerned about your toddler/child, you should seek medical advice but you should not be concerned about giving them berries that have been boiled. Boiling for one minute will destroy viruses, if present.

What is hepatitis A and what are the symptoms?
Hepatitis A infection is an acute disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. There are five main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E.
Illness usually starts about 28 days after exposure to the virus, but it can start anytime between 15 and 50 days after infection. The most common symptoms are fever, loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue and abdominal pain, followed within a few days by jaundice. The disease often fails to show the noticeable symptoms or is mild, particularly in children below five years. Jaundice occurs in 70-80% of people aged over 14 years and less than 10% of children younger than six years. Symptoms may last from one or two weeks to a number of months. Prolonged, relapsing hepatitis for up to one year occurs in 15% of cases.

What should I do if I think I have hepatitis A?
You should seek medical advice. More information on hepatitis A can be found on the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) website

How is hepatitis A virus spread ?
Hepatitis A is a human virus that is primarily spread from person-to-person via the faecal-oral route. The virus is shed in the faeces of infected people. It may also be spread through food that has been contaminated by infected food handlers or by contaminated water. People who have the virus are most infectious in the week or two before onset of symptoms and may be infectious up to one week after onset.

What is norovirus and what are the symptoms?
Norovirus is one of the most common causes of gastroenteritis. Symptoms include – nausea (often sudden onset), vomiting (often projectile) and watery diarrhoea. Symptoms begin around 12 to 48 hours after becoming infected. The illness is usually brief, with symptoms lasting only about 1 or 2 days. Most people make a full recovery within 1-2 days, however some people (usually the very young or elderly) may become very dehydrated and require hospital treatment.d

What should I do if I think I have norovirus?
You should seek medical advice. More information on norovirus can be found on the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) website

How is norovirus spread?
Noroviruses are very contagious and can spread easily from person-to-person. Both the faeces and vomit of an infected person contain the virus and are infectious. People infected with norovirus are contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill to 2/3 days after recovery. Some people may be contagious for as long as 2 weeks after recovery.
It is important for people to use good handwashing and other hygienic practices after they have recently recovered from norovirus illness. In addition, noroviruses are very resilient and can survive in the environment (e.g. on surfaces) for a number of weeks.

How might berries become contaminated with norovirus and hepatitis A virus?
Contamination could occur on the farm, through use of sewage-contaminated agricultural water or through contamination by infected workers. Cross-contamination could occur post-harvest along the supply chain, through contact with contaminated surfaces of machines, equipment and facilities during freezing, mixing and packaging processes.

When did the FSAI first recommend boiling of imported frozen berries?
The FSAI first issued this advice in 2013, during the investigation of an outbreak of hepatitis A virus in Ireland which was linked to imported frozen berries.  The outbreak turned out to be part of a multi-state outbreak, with over 1,000 cases reported in 12 EU countries.

What was the source of contamination of the frozen berries in the 2013 hepatitis A virus outbreak?
The multi-state investigation did not identify the source of the contamination. The investigation concluded that contamination could have occurred at the freezing processor or at the primary production stage.  It highlighted the importance of compliance with Good Hygiene Practice (GHP) and Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) and cautioned that contaminated product related to the outbreak could still be circulating in the food chain.

What was the evidence that linked imported frozen berries with the 2013 multi-state hepatitis A virus outbreak in Europe?
Contaminated batches of mixed frozen berries/berry-containing products were identified in Italy, France and Norway and were recalled from the market. This evidence together with epidemiological and environmental investigations from the affected countries identified frozen berries as the mostly likely vehicle of infection for this outbreak and suggested that it could be a single outbreak linked to a common, continuous source of contamination.
At the request of the European Commission, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) coordinated the tracing activities of affected Member States. This work involved collecting data on the source of each berry delivery from retail sale back to the farmer to see if a common source or sources of contamination could be identified. Bulgarian blackberries and Polish redcurrants were identified as the most common ingredient in the food consumed by affected people. However, this might be explained by the fact that Poland is the largest producer of redcurrants in Europe, and Bulgaria is a major exporter of frozen blackberries. While no single point source of contamination was identified, twelve food operators were identified with links to cases and batches in five of the countries affected.

Fifth case of hep A from imported frozen berries in NZ

A fifth New Zealander is believed to have contracted hepatitis A after eating contaminated frozen berries in October.

berries.boozeThe case was confirmed by the New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries on Wednesday, which says it is likely the person was infected after eating Fruzio Mixed Berries in late October.

Consumers have since been instructed to return or throw out the Fruzio brand of mixed berries (strawberries and blackberries), strawberries, blackberries, and three berry mix (blackberries, strawberries and blueberries) while the company has been forced to withdraw its product from shelves.

Ministry of Primary Industries director of plant food and environment Peter Thomson says the agency was alerted to the case on Tuesday.

“The person ate the berries in late October and reported symptoms at the beginning of this month. The person was briefly hospitalised for observation, but released the same day,” he said.

“The next step is to have the virus tested to see if it is the same strain as that in the four other hepatitis A cases.”

 

Damn frozen berries: 4 sick from hep A in NZ

I love the frozen berries. And fresh. I’m a berry monster. The neighbors ask what to plant by the curb, and my suggestion is always the same: berries.

Frankenface__10753.1400688271.1280.1280However the frozen kind have taken a hit over the past couple of years as over 10,000 have been sickened worldwide with hepatitis A.

The protocol in my house has been to microwave any frozen berries so they are boiling for over 2 minutes and then refrigerate so they’re ready in the morning.

I still don’t know if this is a sufficient risk reduction strategy, but I’m sure someone with a microbiological lab will figure it out, because not everyone lives in sub-tropical Brisbane and has year-round access to fresh berries.

The New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Director General has issued a statement warning of a potential risk associated with imported frozen berries following four human cases of Hepatitis A thought to be linked to packaged imported frozen berries.

The Ministry has instituted a surveillance programme, including additional testing, focused on imported frozen berries.

The Ministry’s Director of Plants, Food and Environment, Peter Thomson says the safety of consumers is MPI’s number one priority in taking the new measures.

“Our investigations to date have not revealed a specific cause, but there is an association with consuming imported frozen berries. Recent outbreaks in other countries also suggest this link.

“We are giving a very high priority to instigating a testing programme that will provide increased surveillance of imported frozen berries. This will include previously imported stocks held by food companies here.

“In the meantime the general advice about food safety applies. People should wash their hands before eating and preparing food. Anyone who is concerned should briefly boil any frozen berries before eating them, or ensure cooking exceeds 85 degrees Celsius for one minute. 

“Elderly persons and those with chronic liver damage should avoid frozen berries that have not been heat treated.

“If you are concerned about a potential risk to your health, or the health of others, you should seek advice from your medical practitioner, or call the Ministry of Health’s Healthline (0800 611 116).

34 sickened: Proposed new Australian food labelling laws released following Hepatitis A outbreak

Food packaging would be stamped with pie or triangle graphs illustrating how much of the product is locally grown under a proposed overhaul of labelling laws.

aust.country.origin.labels.15A two-month consultation study into food labelling regulations has found food can be ‘Made in Australia’ without any Australian ingredients. It also concluded consumers find current laws “confusing and irrelevant” and business considered the existing requirements “burdensome”.

The government initiated the overhaul of food labelling laws in the wake of the contaminated frozen berries scandal in February.

The Department of Industry and Science says the common ‘Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients’ label is meaningless.  It wants to scrap a current accounting production test known as the Safe Harbour Defence, which allows a manufacturer to label their food as Australian made if half the “transformation” or processing has taken place in Australia.

Given the production test includes labour and transport it is often difficult to process a food in Australia made from imported ingredients below the 50 per cent “transformation” threshold, meaning the so-called protection is redundant.

“It appears burdensome for business, yet of little relevance for consumers,” the department’s paper says.

Under new labels being considered, a graphic would included for food partially made in Australia as well as text which would clearly explain what is done in Australia and the proportion of Australian ingredients.

There would be no graphic for imported foods but text would be required to state where the food was manufactured and the origin of ingredients.

Hepatitis A, frozen berries, and hockey

I’ve been playing, coaching, and even sometimes administering hockey – the ice kind – for almost 50 years.

wayne-gretzky-nseI’ve seen every kind of parent, and as I age, I just pay attention to the kids, and tell the parents, get away from my bench.

So it’s not surprising that my volunteer gig as a food safety helper at the kid’s school didn’t end well.

It was, however, like the time Chapman worked in a restaurant for a month, educational.

Australia has an on-going outbreak of hepatitis A that has sickened at least 34, linked to frozen imported berries.

Europe has had tens-of-thousands-sickened in a different outbreak, and why I now always boil my frozen berries.

When the Australian outbreak hit the news, the person who runs the tuck shop wrote in the school newsletter they “would never use frozen berries.”

This is a common conceit I hear from Brisbane-types, which is convenient living in a sub-tropical climate.

So I wrote to the tuck shop person thingy and said, your unequivocal declaration goes against 150 years of freezing technology, that not everyone lives in a sub-tropical climate (Ontario? Canada?) and that the berries could be safely handled if cooked.

She came back with some stuff about sustainability, and all I could see was every hockey parent who thought their kid was the next Wayne Gretzky.

I grew up with Gretzky.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand has completed a risk statement on hepatitis A virus and imported ready-to-eat (RTE) berries. This statement has been given to the Department of Agriculture which is the enforcement agency for imported food.

 FSANZ uses an internationally recognized approach when assessing food safety risks which involves looking at: 

the likelihood of a food safety issue occurring

the consequence of the food safety issue.

We also look at mitigating factors, e.g. is the product going to be cooked or practices and procedures that can mitigate risk further.

The risk statement concluded that, hepatitis A virus in RTE berries produced and handled under Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Hygienic Practices (GHP) is not a medium to high risk to public health.

doug.hockey.goalieEffective control strategies minimize contamination at the primary production and food processing points of the supply chain

Regulatory authorities across the world, including those where outbreaks linked to berries or other produce have occurred, agree that hepatitis A virus contamination is best managed through good quality agriculture and hygiene practices throughout the supply chain.

Guidance is widely available on the good agriculture practices and good hygienic practices that focuses on preventing fresh produce becoming contaminated with viruses such as hepatitis A virus. For example, controls over the quality of water and fertilizers used in the field, as well as the hygiene of workers throughout the supply chain.

While there have been outbreaks associated with hepatitis A in ready-to-eat berries, they are infrequent internationally and rare in Australia

Over the last 25 years, there have been six reported outbreaks of hepatitis A associated with eating ready-to-eat berries around the world. A few of these were in Europe (involving mixed berries and strawberries grown and packed in Europe) and one was in New Zealand (involving domestically grown raw blueberries).

While one of these outbreaks was very large, when taken in the context of the amount of berries sold and traded throughout the world and the amount of berries consumed, the frequency of outbreaks is extremely low.

Hepatitis A infection can be incapacitating but it is not usually life-threatening and long-term effects are rare

Not all people exposed to the hepatitis A virus actually get sick. People who become infected might never show any symptoms. Unlike other foodborne illness, it is rare for small children to present with any symptoms. Long-term effects of having the virus are extremely rare and full recovery usually occurs in a number of weeks.

Because of the difficulties in detecting hepatitis A virus in food, there is very little data on level of contamination of ready-to-eat berries, but the evidence that is available suggests it’s very low.

Data on hepatitis A virus contamination are limited, partly because it is very difficult to test for the virus in food. But the data that is available from testing following outbreaks and the incidence of outbreaks themselves suggest contamination is rare.

There are no internationally agreed criteria for testing of berry fruits for the presence of hepatitis A virus.

Testing for E. coli can be used as an indicator of hygienic production. However, the presence of E.coli does not necessarily mean a food is unsafe and it is not a reliable test for the presence or absence of hepatitis A virus.

Hepatitis A virus cannot reproduce (increase in numbers) in RTE berries

Unlike some microorganisms like bacteria, hepatitis A virus doesn’t grow in food, so levels won’t increase during processing, transport and storage.

Many of the foods considered medium to high risk are foods that are associated with the kinds of microorganisms that can quickly multiply in food. These microorganisms are common and known to be responsible for a high number of outbreaks.

What does this advice mean for importers of ready-to-eat berries?

The Department of Agriculture has issued an Imported Food Notice in response to FSANZ’s advice.

What this means is that from 19 May 2015 importers of berries from any country must be able to demonstrate the product has been sourced from a farm using good agricultural practices.

In addition, good hygienic practices must be evident throughout the supply chain.

If not, then the berries could be considered to pose a potential risk to human health.

FSANZ has previously examined the issue of hepatitis A virus in produce following an outbreak in semi-dried tomatoes in 2010. Following that assessment, FSANZ determined that routine testing for viruses in food is of limited use because:

the virus in contaminated food is usually present at such low levels the pathogen can’t be detected by available analytical methods

viruses can be unevenly distributed and a result can be negative but food can still be unsafe

a positive result can come from the presence of genomic material from inactive or non-infectious virus in the food, but this doesn’t mean the virus is active.

What’s happening with the recalled berries?

In February 2015 FSANZ provided preliminary advice to the Department of Agriculture on the frozen berries linked to the outbreak.   

 FSANZ advised the department that current epidemiological evidence and some uncertainty about food safety controls implemented by the supplier of the berries indicates the product is a medium risk to public health until further information becomes available.

 Patties Foods has told regulators about the company’s testing regime for the products in question including:

ground water testing on the field (for microorganisms, salt and chemicals) 

pesticide testing on the field

pesticide and micro testing in the factory (including for E.coli, Salmonella and Listeria)

heavy metal testing in the factory

Further tests including microbiological tests were conducted pre-shipment and post shipment (after the product arrived in Australia).

Patties has initiated a more stringent testing program and has commenced an extensive testing program for the presence of hepatitis A virus in affected product. 

What is being done to ensure all recalled product is off the shelves?

 In Australia, state and territory regulatory authorities are responsible for working with the manufacturer or producer to ensure stock is removed from shelves.

 Victorian authorities who are managing this recall are also conducting testing on affected product.

How do we know no other berry products are affected?

 Patties Foods has informed FSANZ that the factory involved in processing the berries does not supply products to any customers other than Patties.

Is it true that a hepatitis A outbreak is more serious than other foodborne illness?

No. Foodborne illness as a result of bacteria such as Listeria, Salmonella and Campylobacter can be deadly, particularly for vulnerable populations.

 There are an estimated 4.1 million cases of foodborne illness each year in Australia.

 The latest report on foodborne illness estimates that each year there are more than 31,000 hospitalisations due to foodborne illness and 86 deaths. 

 Four pathogens (norovirus, pathogenic Escherichia coli, Campylobacter and nontyphoidal Salmonella species) are responsible for 93 per cent of the cases where the pathogens were known. 

 emerson.day.5Up until the end of April, 2015 there have been 97 cases of hepatitis A this year  in Australia (including the 34 cases linked to RTE frozen berries). At the same time last year there were 105 cases. Nearly half of all cases of hepatitis A reported in Australia are usually from people returning from overseas travel.

And my new grandson turned six-days-old. Maybe he’ll be a hockey player, maybe a risk assessor, maybe something else.

Boil berries: Ireland reiterates advice

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) today reiterated its advice to consumers to boil all imported frozen berries for at least one minute prior to consumption. 

berries.boozeThe advice follows recent outbreaks of norovirus in Sweden and hepatitis A virus in Australia linked to the consumption of imported frozen berries, although there is no indication that batches of berries implicated have been imported into Ireland.

The outbreak in Sweden occurred in a nursing home in the beginning of May, causing 70 people to become ill with norovirus. Three deaths are reported to have been potentially linked to this outbreak. Microbiological analysis confirmed that imported frozen raspberries from Serbia were the source of this outbreak.  Contrary to national food safety advice in Sweden, the frozen imported raspberries were served uncooked in a dessert.  In Australia, imported frozen berries were linked to an outbreak of Hepatitis A virus which caused over 30 people to become ill during February and March of this year.

The advice to boil all imported frozen berries was first issued by the FSAI in 2013 during the investigation of an outbreak of hepatitis A virus in Ireland which was linked to imported frozen berries.  The advice was renewed in 2014 following related outbreaks in Europe.  The Irish outbreak turned out to be part of a multi-State outbreak, with over 1,000 cases reported in 12 EU countries.  Following a European-wide investigation the source of the outbreak was never confirmed, however batches of frozen berries from twelve food operators were linked to cases of illness in five of the countries affected.

Dr Lisa O’Connor, Chief Specialist in Food Science, FSAI states: “There remains an ongoing risk in the global imported frozen berry supply chain.  We therefore continue to recommend that imported frozen berries should be boiled for at least one minute before they are eaten.  This precautionary measure will destroy the virus if it is present and is particularly important when serving these foods to vulnerable people such as nursing home residents. While fresh berries have not been linked to these outbreaks, we remind consumers that – as with all other fruit and vegetables – they should always be washed thoroughly if they are being eaten uncooked.”

Uh-huh: Rules will be strict and strident for frozen berries imported into Australia after hep A outbreak

Australian bureaucrats apparently don’t know hepatitis A is only transmitted amongst humans – it does not go through animals.

FROZEN BERRIES RECALLBut to have the appearance of doing something, importers of frozen berries will have to prove their fruit comes from farms and factories with strict sanitation standards after 34 people were sickened with hep A in Australia this year.

The Federal Agriculture Department enacted new health regulations, with the threat of up to 10 years jail if importers do not comply.

The department will also begin testing berries for E. coli after the rash of food poisoning cases highlighted inadequate screening and lax product labelling rules.

Victoria’s Patties Foods recalled Nanna’s 1kg frozen mixed berries after people were diagnosed with hepatitis A after eating this brand, which was packed in China.

The source of the infection remains unknown but the only common element was all patients ate the same brand of berries. Tests on an unopened pack found traces of the virus.

Thirty companies import frozen berries from China.

The food safety watchdog says correctly handled berries do not pose a medium or high threat to health but the new rules require importers to follow good agricultural and hygienic practices throughout the supply chain.

These include no contact with fecal matter or animals, clean and sanitised equipment, the product stays frozen and clean water is used for growing and washing berries.

Before they can ship berries into Australia, importers will have to review suppliers and keep records of these assessments.

Five per cent of berry consignments will be tested for E.coli, which can be a sign of poor hygiene. Testing for hepatitis A can be difficult because levels of the virus in food may be too low to be detected.

‘They should have been boiled’ 2 dead, 60 sick from Norovirus in frozen raspberries in Swedish retirement homes

I didn’t think about it much until a couple of years ago, but now I boil all frozen berries.

frozen_raspberries(1)(1)Apparently that’s a good idea.

But sad that consumers have to be the critical control point.

Two people have died of suspected food poisoning and another hospitalized. Some 60 people have suffered food poisoning on several retirement homes in Ljungby municipality. The cause is believed to be the raspberries in a dessert.

The raspberries served at several retirement homes in Ljungby municipality boiled never – contrary to the recommendations contained.

One should always boil the frozen foreign raspberries, says Elsie Castro, a molecular biologist at the National Public Health Agency.”

Mariana Axelsson, nutrition manager in Ljungby municipality, admits that the infected raspberries that caused an outbreak of Norwalk virus should have been cooked. The procedures have failed and will now be reviewed.

Hallonparfaiten served on several retirement homes in Ljungby and caused 60 people fell ill with Norwalk virus. Two elderly also have died , probably as a result of the disease.

To the importer who says there’s no proven link, I say, epidemiology still works: 18 confirmed sick with hep A from frozen Chinese berries

As the number of confirmed hepatitis A cases in Australia from frozen berries grown in China rose to 18 over the weekend, as political rhetoric about imports and local food reached staggering new heights, the company continued to insist there’s no firm link between a national hepatitis A outbreak and its recalled berries.

epidemiology.WATER PUMP3_Page_4The company says its imported Chinese berries were recalled on health department advice despite a lack of proof from accredited laboratories of a link to the hepatitis A virus (HAV).

“At this point, we have not been provided any remaining consumer product to test from the 13 confirmed HAV cases to clinically verify there is indeed a link with the Nanna’s Mixed Berries,” managing director and chief executive Stephen Chaur said in a statement on Friday.

Mr Chaur said the company had rigorous testing that went beyond the Australian standards requirement that five per cent of imported fruit containers be tested.

“Patties Foods’ documented test regime is among the highest, testing 20 per cent of all the containers when they arrive in Australia,” he said.

But Mr Chaur said sample testing for microbial and viral markers had been increased to 100 per cent of imported frozen berries from all countries.

The company has checked quality control testing documents back to June 2014 and says they’re satisfied no biological indicators outside Australian guidelines have been detected.

Great. Prove it and make the data public.