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CDC Update: 99 Sick With Hepatitis A From Frozen BerriesCDC Update: 99 Sick With Hepatitis A From Frozen Berries

June 12, 2013

2 Min Read
CDC Update: 99 Sick With Hepatitis A From Frozen Berries

ATLANTAThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that as of June 11, 2013, 99 people in eight states have been confirmed ill with acute hepatitis A infections from reportedly eating Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend, a mix of frozen berries and pomegranate seeds sold at Costco stores.

The CDC, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and state and local health departments are investigating the multi-state outbreak that now includes illnesses in Arizona, California Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Washington; 39 people have been hospitalized.

All ill people reported purchasing this product from Costco markets; however, the product was also sold at Harris Teeter stores. No cases have been identified that bought the product at Harris Teeter at this time.

Preliminary laboratory studies of specimens from two cases 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.

Costco has notified its members who purchased this product since late February 2013, and has removed the Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend" frozen berry and pomegranate mix from its shelves. FDA has begun an inspection of the processing facilities of Townsend Farms of Fairview, Ore. FDA is also finalizing a protocol to test berries for the Hepatitis A virus (HAV), and will be testing samples related to the outbreak, including the frozen blend for the presence of HAV.

According to the label, The Townsend Farms Organic Anti-oxidant Blend frozen berry mix associated with illness contained pomegranate seeds and other produce from the United States, Argentina, Chile and Turkey.

Hepatitis A is a human disease and usually occurs when an infected food handler prepares food without appropriate hand hygiene. However, food contaminated with HAV, as is suspected in this outbreak, can cause outbreaks of disease among persons who eat or handle food.

Meanwhile, Townsend Farms already must contend with lawsuits. One complaint filed in San Diego County alleges a women discovered from the San Diego County Health Department that she was a victim of the HAP outbreak linked to Townsend Farms. Townsend Farms faces at least one other lawsuit that was filed on behalf of a 51-year-old woman from Lakewood, Calif., according to a KABC news report.

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