FOOD SAFETY NEWS – Federal officials have confirmed that the strain of hepatitis A virus found in frozen organic strawberries involved in a multi-state outbreak this year is the same strain that caused an outbreak in 2022.
The organic strawberries associated with both outbreaks were imported to the United States from the same growing area in Baja California, Mexico, according to an outbreak update from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
So far this year there have been seven people confirmed infected and all seven reported eating frozen organic strawberries. Two of the patients required hospitalization.
FDA’s traceback investigation identified a common supplier of frozen organic strawberries, but Tuesday’s update did not name the supplier. Both this year and in 2022 the implicated strawberries were sold at a variety of stores under several different brand names.
In 2022 there were 18 confirmed patients in the United States with 13 requiring hospitalization. The people reported eating fresh organic strawberries. Canada reported 10 patients infected with the same strain of hepatitis A and those patients also reported eating fresh organic strawberries.
“Transmission is mostly by the fecal-to-oral route.” – What is hepatitis A? Cleveland Clinic
This year two companies, California Splendor and Scenic Fruit, recalled frozen organic strawberries with best-by dates stretching into 2024. The recalled strawberries were sold under the following brands
- Simply Nature, Organic Strawberries, Best By 06/14/2024
- Vital Choice, Organic Strawberries, BEST BY 05/20/2024
- Kirkland Signature, Organic Strawberries, Best If Used By 10/08/2024
- Made With, Organic Strawberries, Best Before 11/20/2024
- PCC Community Markets, Organic Strawberries, Best By 29/10/2024
- Trader Joe’s, Organic Tropical Fruit Blend with the following Best By dates: 04/25/24; 05/12/24; 05/23/24; 05/30/24; 06/07/24
“California Splendor supplied recalled products to Costco stores in Los Angeles and Hawaii, and to two San Diego business centers. Scenic Fruit supplied recalled products to Costco, Aldi, KeHE, Vital Choice Seafood, and PCC Community Markets in specific states, and to Trader Joe’s nationwide,” according to the FDA.
On March 17, 2023, a retailer, Meijer, also issued a voluntary for frozen organic strawberries from certain market store locations.
“This is not an exhaustive list of products or stores. FDA is continuing to work with the firms to identify potential additional product information,” the FDA reported.
The FDA’s investigation is ongoing and additional strawberries may be recalled or added to the list of those related to the outbreak.
About hepatitis A infections
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious, vaccine-preventable, liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV) ranging in severity from mild infection lasting a few weeks to severe disease lasting several months.
Not everyone with hepatitis A has symptoms. Adults are more likely to have symptoms than children. If symptoms develop, they usually appear two to seven weeks after exposure to the virus with an average of 28-30 days after infection. Symptoms usually last less than two months, although some people can be ill for as long as six months.
If symptoms develop, they can include: yellow skin or eyes, not wanting to eat, upset stomach, throwing up, stomach pain, fever, dark urine or light-colored stools, diarrhea, and joint pain.
Many people, especially children, have no symptoms but can still spread the infection. In addition, a person can transmit hepatitis A to others up to two weeks before symptoms appear.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)