Hepatitis A again in sun-dried tomatoes ‘celebrity chefs’ favorite’

Hepatitis A has once again popped up in dried tomatoes, but it’s not new.

The Daily Mail reports U.K. health types are investigating an outbreak of hepatitis A in at least seven people, linked to sun-dried tomatoes; four were hospitalized.

The health alert was triggered when two of the cases were reported late last year to the Heath Protection Agency.

Wait, Eurosurveillance reported on Feb. 9, 2012, that in October 2011, two primary cases of hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection with identical HAV genotype IB strains to those seen in other outbreaks associated with semi-dried tomatoes were reported in England. Both cases had consumed semi-dried tomatoes.

Epidemiological investigations revealed two additional cases of genotype IB strains with different sequences who also reported having consumed semi-dried tomatoes. In November, five cases of HAV infection with closely related strains were identified in the Netherlands. A foodborne multiple-strain outbreak was suspected.

A spokesman for the Food Standards Agency said, "Sun-dried tomatoes are being investigated as one possible source of the hepatitis A cases. However, no food source has been conclusively identified and no other relevant cases have been reported in the UK.”

Hepatitis A is one of the few causes of foodborne illness that only cycles through humans – and their poop. An outbreak of hepatitis A means human sewage came into contact with the food (which then wasn’t cooked) or someone shedding the virus had a poop, failed to adequately wash their hands, and then prepared an uncooked food.

Some 140 people became sick with hepatitis A in Australia in late 2009 linked to semi-dried tomatoes.