Anyone travelling to the western part of the United States should beware of a new foodborne outbreak. According to reports in the American media, a new outbreak of a Hepatitis A strain has emerged in the Western Hemisphere. The outbreak has been linked to frozen mixed berries purchased from grocery giant Costco in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico.
Although we all believe that “organic’ automatically equals better, sometimes organic fruit and vegetables can be the source of serious foodborne poisoning. In this case the source of the outbreak was an organic antioxidant blend of frozen berries. The strain is normally found in North Africa and the Middle East and has been linked to another outbreak last year which was traced to pomegranate seeds originating in Egypt.
The latest outbreak has left people in several American states ill and possibly people outside of the states who have not traced their food poisoning back to the frozen berries as yet.
Read what this post from Foodsafetynews.com reported on the outbreak:
The outbreak strain has been identified by CDC as hepatitis A virus (HAV) genotype 1B, a strain that circulates in North Africa and the Middle East. It was associated with last year’s outbreak in Europe involving frozen berries and another in British Columbia involving frozen berry blend with pomegranate seeds from Egypt.
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 US, Argentina, Chile, and Turkey. The product is a blend of cherries, blueberries, pomegranate seeds, raspberries and strawberries. Costco has removed this product from its shelves, but has not yet issued a formal recall.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating the product, including testing berries for the Hepatitis A virus, which may take several weeks.
Colorado public health officials say three women and two men in the state, from ages 35 to 71, were stricken with hepatitis A. They are from Adams, Boulder, Clear Creek and Jefferson Counties. The state has asked people to discard the berry product if they have it in their freezers.
Risks associated with Hepatitis A:
The risk of Hepatitis A is that it can make the sufferer extremely ill. Some of the symptoms include the sudden onset of fever, nausea, abdominal pain and jaundice and is usually mild. Hepatitis A is excreted in the faeces of infected people and can cause illness in people when they consume water and food contaminated with the virus.
Outbreaks in the past have been linked to contaminated cold meats, sandwiches, fruits and fruit juices, milk and its by-products, vegetables, shellfish and iced drinks with the most common contamination by workers in food processing that are infected.
Restaurant staff, chefs and anyone involved in food handling or preparation can spread the disease if they handle food while infected. Because the incubation period for the disease is approximately 30 days, it is often difficult to diagnose the source because by the time a person realizes they are infected it’s too late to narrow down the source, unless a number of people become infected.