But we still made money: Frozen berries recall costs Patties Foods

The Nanna’s frozen berries Hepatitis A scare and subsequent recall has caused Patties Foods to log a headline profit decline of almost 90 per cent.

frozen-berriesPatties Foods, the supplier of the product, today posted a net profit of $2.1m for the twelve months to the end of June, an 87 per cent decline on the prior year’s $16.7m.

On an underlying basis, excluding one-off items, net profit after tax came in at $15.4m for the year, compared with the firm’s guidance of $15m.

A string of Hepatitis A cases in New South Wales and Victoria earlier this year sparked the product recall as health officials blamed the Nanna’s brand 1kg mixed berries which Patties manufactures. The company reportedly sourced strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries from China.

“The frozen berries recall had a significant impact and was the primary reason for the approximate $14.6m reduction in net profit,” chairman Mark Smith said. The direct costs of the recall, the non-cash impairment of the frozen fruits business cost $13.6m before tax.

“However, it is important to note that total company revenue grew by 3.7 per cent despite the effects of the frozen berries recall, which indicated that the savoury business performed solidly with all core brands growing revenue and profit,” Mr Smith said.

Revenue for the group rose to $257m, up from the prior year’s $248m.

My frozen berries are now all boiled for a minute, linked to thousands of sickness in EU over past decade

Frozen berries have been linked to 26 cases of food contamination in the European Union in the past nine years.

frozen.strawberryHepatitis A, norovirus (a type of viral gastroenteritis) and Shigella sonnei (a type of dysentery) infections were identified as the main threat from the berries.

That’s according to a review released last week, which showed there had been 32 independent outbreaks of disease caused by contaminated frozen berries in the EU between 1983 and 2013, with more than 15,000 cases of norovirus reported.

It comes after Australian food processor Patties Foods recalled some of its frozen berries — which it imports from China — when 34 cases of Hepatitis A were linked to the products in February.

The Weekly Times revealed in March Australia had suffered dozens of its own food safety scandals in the past decade — mostly linked to contaminated fruit.

Frozen berries, how I used to love you, and now I cook you

Epidemiological investigations of outbreaks of hepatitis A virus (HAV) and norovirus (NoV) infections in the European Union/European Economic Area (EU/EEA) in the last five years have highlighted frozen berries as a vehicle of infection.

frozen.strawberry-300x225Given the increasing berry consumption in the EU over the last decades, we undertook a review of the existing evidence to assess the potential scale of threat associated with this product. We searched the literature and four restricted-access online platforms for outbreak/contamination events associated with consumption of frozen berries. We performed an evaluation of the sources to identify areas for improvement. The review revealed 32 independent events (i.e. outbreak, food contamination) in the period 1983–2013, of which 26 were reported after 2004. The identified pathogens were NoV, HAV and Shigella sonnei. NoV was the most common and implicated in 27 events with over 15,000 cases reported. A capture–recapture analysis was performed including three overlapping sources for the period 2005–2013.

The study estimated that the event-ascertainment was 62%. Consumption of frozen berries is associated with increasing reports of NoV and HAV outbreaks and contamination events, particularly after 2003. A review of the risks associated with this product is required to inform future prevention strategies.

Better integration of the available communication platforms and databases should be sought at EU/EEA level to improve monitoring, prevention and control of food-borne-related events.

Food-borne diseases associated with frozen berries consumption: A historical perspective, European Union, 1983 to 2013

Eurosurveillance, Volume 20, Issue 29, 23 July 2015

Tavoschi L, Severi E, Niskanen T, Boelaert F, Rizzi V, Liebana E, Gomes Dias J, Nichols G, Takkinen J, Coulombier D.


Imported berry mix cake suspected to be the source of Hepatitis A in Norway

I’m still pissed I can’t figure out where my frozen berries are coming from.

Sure, I live in a sub-tropical climate with an abundance of berries, but retailers with the frozen berries will go for the cheapest source.

And frozen berries have been a mainstay of my diet for decades (because in Canada, fresh berries are available for about six weeks a year).

Guzman-Herrador et al. report in Eurosurveillance that on 7 March 2014, an increase in hepatitis A virus (HAV) infections was identified in Norway. As of 12 April, 19 cases of HAV infection with a virus strain identical to an ongoing European outbreak have been frozen.berry.cakeidentified. Six probable cases are currently under investigation. On 11 April, a frozen berry mix cake imported from another European country was found as the likely source of the outbreak; the importer has withdrawn the product in Norway.

An international traceback investigation is ongoing to find the origin of the berries used in the cake.

Internationally, there’s been over 11,000 cases of Hepatitis A linked to berries from the Mediterranean region over the past two years.

European Hepatitis A-frozen berry update

More than 1,300 hepatitis A cases have been reported in eleven Member States since January 2013, with 240 confirmed cases related to the ongoing outbreak.

Initially the outbreak was associated with people who had travelled to Italy. However seven Member States- France, Germany, Ireland, Norway, the raspberry.pieNetherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom- have reported cases of infections in people who had not travelled to Italy.

Preliminary investigations identified frozen berries as the most likely source of infection. Other hypotheses, such as cross contamination in the food production environment or that the outbreak strain is already widespread but previously undetected, have now also been taken into account.

EFSA is leading a trace-back investigation, with the support of affected Member States, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the European Commission and the Federal Institute for risk assessment (Bfr).

Almost 600 sick from Hepatitis A in frozen berries in 3 outbreaks

It’s enough to turn me off frozen berries – he says while experimenting with a batch of gluten-free crepes filled with previously frozen berries.

As the case count for Hepatitis A linked to Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend reaches 136, outbreaks in Northern frozen-berriesItaly and Northern Europe have sickened 352 and 103 respectively. All linked to frozen mixed berries.

Is there a connection?

Maybe probably not, other than human shit Hepatitis A is everywhere, vaccines work, people in various countries don’t wash their hands and global trade in the smallest of ingredients complicates outbreak investigations.

The Italians fingered mixed berries (redcurrant, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries) and a dealer that received consignments of berries from different countries (mix made in Italy, with raw material from Bulgaria, Canada, Poland, and Serbia).

The Nords fingered frozen strawberries as the likely cause but could not exclude other frozen berries. The origin of the berries is still being investigated.

On Wednesday, Swedish supermarket chain Ica announced it was removing all frozen strawberries and some frozen mixed berries from its shelves. The berries come from Morocco and Egypt.

The Americans fingered a common shipment of pomegranate seeds from a company in Turkey, Goknur Foodstuffs Import Export Trading, and will detain shipments of pomegranate seeds
berry.blend.hep.afrom Goknur arriving into the U.S. Those pomegranate seeds were used by Townsend Farms to make the Townsend Farms and Harris Teeter Organic Antioxidant Blends and by Scenic Fruit Company to make the Woodstock Frozen Organic Pomegranate Kernels.

The Italians say the genotype and the sequence of the Hepatitis A virus isolated in the Italian outbreak is different from the U.S. and Nordic outbreaks.

Keep on investigating, investigators.

And know thy suppliers.

Maybe I’ll go for the gluten-free buckwheat pancakes instead and cook the berries in the batter. But there’s still that cross-contamination factor in the kitchen.

79 now sick; Hepatitis A outbreak continues to grow

Whenever I buy a house in some new town, the first thing I do is plant berries. Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, even got some loganberries in Brisbane. They take a couple of years to come in to full production, but after that, easy peasy.

My grandfather had maybe a 30-foot-by-10-food patch of raspberries on his raspberryfront yard, and that produced an endless supply. Guess I got hooked.

So it’s more than disconcerting that the multistate outbreak of Hepatitis A linked to frozen berries continues to spread, with 79 people now confirmed as sick.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that based on epidemiologic investigation of 55 cases:

• 35 (64%) ill people are women;

• ages range from 2 – 84 years;

• illness onset dates range from 3/16/2013 – 6/1/2013

• 30 (55%) ill people have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported;

• 40 (73%) of 55 ill people interviewed reported eating “Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend” frozen berry and pomegranate mix; and,

• 40 persons reported purchasing this product from Costco markets; however, the product was also sold at Harris Teeter stores. No cases have been

sorenne.strawberry.13identified that bought the product at Harris Teeter at this time.

Preliminary laboratory studies of specimens from two states suggest the outbreak strain of hepatitis A virus (HAV) is genotype 1B. This strain is rarely seen in the Americas but circulates in the North Africa and Middle East regions.

This genotype was identified in a 2013 outbreak in Europe linked to frozen berries and another 2012 outbreak in British Columbia related to a frozen berry blend with pomegranate seeds from Egypt. However, there is no evidence at this time that these outbreaks are related.

According to the label, the “Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend” frozen berry and pomegranate mix associated with illness contained products originating from the U.S., Argentina, Chile, and Turkey.

To their credit, Costco is offering to refund the cost of hepatitis A vaccinations or provide the vaccination free of charge at a Costco pharmacy to customers who consumed the recalled frozen berries.

Craig Wilson, Costco’s vice president of quality insurance, food safety and merchandise services, said the company used membership records and receipts to contact customers who purchased the recalled berries since February.

“If anyone has a concern, they should get to their personal health care provider,” Wilson said.

Wilson said he could not confirm that 100 percent of purchasers of the product were contacted, but the company made multiple attempts to inform berry.blend.hep.amembers of the recall and the potential need for vaccinations.

“Wednesday afternoon I sent out another message to 250,000 folks to remind them about the recall,” he said.

Bill Marler, a Seattle-based lawyer, recently filed a class-action lawsuit against Townsend Farms in California. He said his office has been contacted by approximately 400 people who received vaccinations as a result of purchasing the frozen berries, and only about half of those were contacted by Costco.

Elizabeth Weise of USA Today noted the outbreak has seemingly spared children, probably because of routine vaccinations against hepatitis A since 2006.

“The very, very small number of children involved in this outbreak probably reflects the high vaccination coverage as the result of the routine immunization,” said John Ward, who directs the viral hepatitis program at CDC.

The one child who did become ill, a 2-year-old, was not vaccinated, Ward said.

The hepatitis A vaccine is given to children twice, first between 6 and 12 months and then six months later, said CDC’s Trudy Murphy, a hepatitis expert. The vaccine became available in 1996. In 2006 CDC recommended that all children be vaccinated against the virus.

Sorenne’s got that vaccine. So do me and Amy.

Widespread vaccination is having an impact. In 1995 there were 31,582 hepatitis A cases in the United States. In 2010, the most recent year for which numbers are available, there were 1,670, according to CDC.

34 now sick with Hepatitis A; Townsend Farms finally recalls organic frozen berry mix

Townsend Farms of Oregon has ordered a recall of a frozen berry product linked to a Hepatitis A outbreak in five Western states that has now sickened at least 34 people.

Lynne Terry of The Oregonian reports that Townsend Farms sold 332,000 packages of its Organic Antioxidant Blend through Costco stores nationwide. It also shipped to an East Coast chain, Harris Teeter, which sold the product under its own label.

So far, 34 people in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada have been infected in the outbreak. Hepatitis A, which attacks the liver, can be berry.blend.hep.aprevented with a vaccine within two weeks of exposure. Immune globulin shots can also prevent or stem the severity of the disease.

Health officials expect more cases: The virus can incubate in the body for up to 50 days before symptoms appear. They include fever, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and fatigue.

Costco sold the potentially contaminated berries from February through May in 3 lb. bags. They have sequential best-by codes from T012415 through T053115. Distribution in Harris Teeter stores was limited to April 19 to May 7. Harris Teeter Organic Antioxidant Berry Blend was sold in 10 oz. bags with best by codes of T041615E and T041615C.

Costco pulled the product from its shelves on Wednesday and Thursday, said Craig Wilson, the company’s food safety manager. He said members who purchased the product got a call on Thursday and again this weekend. But one man who purchased the blend said he was not contacted.

State and federal officials suspect the outbreak was caused by pomegranate seeds from Turkey, not the berries in the mix.

Food and Drug Administration officials are investigating Townsend Farms’ processing plant in Fairview, where the blend was manufactured. Bill Gaar, the company’s attorney, said the FDA started the testing process on Monday by collecting samples.

Gaar said there was no indication that the blend was contaminated by pickers, food handlers or during processing. Besides the pomegranate seeds from Turkey, the blend contained cherries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries from Oregon, Washington, Argentina and Chile.

The source of the fruit helped epidemiologists pinpoint the likely culprit. The strain of hepatitis A in the outbreak is not found in North or South America but is relatively common in North Africa and Middle East, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Last April, eight people were infected in British Columbia in a hepatitis A outbreak associated with frozen berries, and again this spring, more than 70 people developed the liver disease in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland in a hepatitis A outbreak traced to frozen berries. Scandinavian officials suspect pomegranate seeds from Egypt in the Nordic outbreak. And also this spring, 15 people from Germany Poland and the Netherlands became infected with hepatitis A after eating frozen berries in Italy.