Pattie’s foods gets out of the frozen berries business following hep A outbreak

Here’s a predictable progression: products linked to 34 illnesses, shares tank, can’t sell your berries, get out of the berries biz.

According to Business Insider Australia Patties Foods has sold its frozen berries business to Entyce Food Ingredients for an undisclosed sum.FROZEN BERRIES RECALL

The company says the funds from the sale would generate $1.8 million, a sum which is unlikely to affect its fiscal 2016 results.

Its net profit after tax was down from $16.7 million to just $2.1 million.

At the time of the outbreak, the company’s shares tanked 6.5% to $1.28.

Before the recall, the berries business generated 13% of Patties’ sales.

Checking into your suppliers matters when you sell an uncooked product.

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.

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.

New Food Safety Infosheet: Hepatitis A illnesses linked to frozen berries in Australia

Australian public health officials have identified an outbreak of hepatitis A and linked illnesses to consuming Nanna’s frozen berries sold by Patties Foods.

Food safety infosheet highlights:

–  Health officials have confirmed 20 illnesses to date.

– The berries were produced by Patties Foods, which has issued a recall on three products.Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 9.13.39 PM

– Officials expect cases to increase as the incubation period of the virus ranges from 15-50 days and those who are infected may not yet be showing symptoms.

Click here to download the food safety infosheet.

Hepatitis A in Nanna’s berries; seen and heard

As companies and consumers check their freezers, past menus and, receipts, health officials anticipate that confirmed cases will continue to grow (The Age):

The number of cases of Hepatitis A linked to the consumption of frozen berries imported from China has climbed to at least 14.

Thirty-four government schools have advised the Victorian Education Department that some of their students have consumed berries that have been recalled because of the hepatitis A imported frozen berry outbreak.1424036630491

The number of schools affected suggests that potentially hundreds of students ate berries from one of four lines of frozen berries before they were recalled in recent days by Bairnsdale-based food company Patties Foods.


Another example of questioning the world of epidemiology; gotta be tough to be an epi (Business Insider Australia):

On its website, Patties Foods says “The link between our products and the reported illnesses has not yet been confirmed,” in response to its own question about meeting medical costs.

“This makes it too early to comment,” the company said.

The local-food-is-safer contingent is out – without data (Sunshine Coast Daily):

Long-time Chevallum strawberry farmer Rick Twist, co-owner of Twist Brothers, said he could not understand why people continued to risk purchasing overseas products to save a few dollars when the integrity of local produce was so much higher.

“Why the hell do people buy this stuff from those countries when their standards are so low and ours are so high?” Mr Twist said.

“Australian berries… our regulations are so tight and so strong, I think they’re the best in the world.”

And the outbreak has hit rugby (Yahoo News):

The Tigers confirmed on Tuesday that three senior players had approached club management on Monday with concerns that berries they ate may have been contaminated.

Captain Robbie Farah and veteran winger Pat Richards were later named in news reports as two players who underwent precautionary blood tests for the virus.

[Coach Jason] Taylor declined to name the trio of players but said they had shown no symptoms and the club had no confirmed cases of infection.

“It’s really simple. A couple of guys have eaten some of the berries that have been recalled, and that’s the end of the story,” Taylor said.

“We’re not overly concerned about it. We’re just being really cautious. It’s a smart move to make sure we are ticking all the boxes and all the guys are OK.

“We don’t feel that is going to come to that point (of infection) but we are doing due diligence on it.”

Some good amateur medical assessment there, Coach Taylor.

‘I’m massively jaundice and my liver’s pretty crappy’; hepatitis A victim speaks

Hepatitis A is a pretty nasty foodborne virus, often leading to long term liver issues. According to the Daily Mail, one of the folks in a cluster of hep A illnesses linked Chinese-grown berries in Australia is speaking out.

Trudie Sims, from Ballarat in Victoria, had been using Nanna’s frozen berries in smoothies until Sunday evening, when she was alerted to the health warning which had been issued.

‘I’m really angry … (and) it’s absolutely terrified me’, Ms Sims told Daily Mail Australia.

So far four cases of hepatitis A have been confirmed in Queensland, three in Victoria, and two in New South Wales. Ms Sims’ case could take the national toll to ten.

‘Over the last two to three weeks I’ve been getting quite sick and I just thought it was a flu,’ Ms Sims revealed.

‘Last night I just couldn’t really swallow anymore and I was going to make a frozen drink like I have been for the last four to six weeks,’ she added added.

After her partner Trevor alerted her to the health warning which had been issued when he saw Ms Sims with a packet of Nanna’s berries – he rushed her to hospital.

Since her admission her eyelids have turned yellow and she is exhibiting signs of jaundice.

‘I’m massively jaundice and my liver’s pretty crappy and these are the first signs of hep A from the berries,’ Ms Sims revealed. 

Though still awaiting the definitive results of her blood tests, Ms Sims said her doctor was almost certain she had hepatitis A, news which left her in tears.

The Ballarat woman said she feels betrayed by the food company, and claims she was misled over the origin of the product which she thought were Australian made.

‘I’m really angry’, Ms Sims said before adding ‘It’s disgusting. We’re in Australia – we have our own resources.’ 

She now faces at least a week of unpaid leave from her casual job, is on heavy antibiotics and can’t even kiss her partner.

Ms Sims said she was beside herself when she found out, especially since she and partner Trevor visited his sick mother in hospital just last week. She hopes that she did not pass on any virus.

And the import blame game has started.

Victorian Farmers Federation president Peter Tuohey said not all imported food adhered to Australia’s strict guidelines which were some of the best health and safety standards in the world.

Mr Tuohey urged consumers to always buy Australian made products but conceded identifying those products could be quite challenging. 

‘I can only assume that this company is using Chinese berries because they are offering a lower market price,’ he told The Herald Sun. ‘Berries are certainly in season in Australia.’ 

He said that it was likely the berries were contaminated when they were first picked.

‘They may have been placed on the ground where rats and other vermin could have caused the problem,’ he said.

‘Unfortunately, Australian Customs don’t test every batch, they only check a certain percentage of shipments.’

The cost of an outbreak: hepatitis A edition

The folks who run food safety at big companies often talk about the challenges they face when it comes to asking for resources. It’s all about return on investment.

I don’t know much about ROI, an 18% drop in stock isn’t good. According to Reuters that’s what the firm who sells Nanna’s berry mixes are experiencing. falling-stocks

Shares in Australia’s Patties Foods Ltd fell as much as 18 percent on Monday after it recalled its frozen berry products following a hepatitis A outbreak that has been linked to poor hygiene and water supplies in a Chinese packaging plant.

Shares were down 12.4 percent at A$1.20 in early trade, after falling as low as A$1.14.

More cases expected in Australian frozen berry hepatitis A outbreak

Berries are a staple of my diet; I go through about 2 lbs a week of raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. When the fresh berries are too expensive (or don’t look good) I substitute with frozen ones – and often cook them before eating after the multiple noro and hep A outbreaks in the past few years.
According to ABC (the Australian one), another illness in New South Wales has been linked to Nanna’s frozen mixed berries, bringing the number of outbreak cases up to five.
A second case of hepatitis A linked to Nanna’s frozen mixed berries has been confirmed in New South Wales.6099244-3x2-340x227
It follows the identification of three cases in Victoria linked to the same product.
The NSW Health department has issued a warning urging consumers not to eat the product with best-before dates up to and including November 22, 2016.
The department said it was not sure how many others may be affected given the berries are widely distributed and the potential for people to develop the disease in the coming weeks.
Dr Vicky Sheppeard from NSW Health’s Communicable Diseases Branch said there were concerns because hepatitis-A was contagious.
“So far we’ve had two people that have confirmed hepatitis A, that in the weeks to months before they developed hepatitis A had consumed these berries and they’re coming from different parts of the state, so we’re concerned this might be a more widespread problem,” said Dr Sheppeard.
Dr Sheppeard said NSW Health were expecting more cases to arise.
“The incubation period for hepatitis A is between two and seven weeks, so at this stage it’s an early stage of the investigation and we’re still gathering information about how much of the product is in NSW homes but potentially we will be seeing more cases in the coming weeks,” said Dr Sheppeard.