Frozen berries linked to Hepatitis A outbreak

Recalled Creative Gourmet Frozen Mixed Berries 300g

A frozen mixed berry product has been recalled due to a link to four hepatitis A cases in Australia.

Creative Gourmet Mixed Berries 300g (batch number PP150118, BBD 15.01.2021) sold in supermarkets including IGA, Foodworks, Foodland, SPAR, Supabarn and other independent retailers is involved.

Entyce Food Ingredients said consumers should be confident the recalled batch is an isolated one that is no longer available on supermarket shelves.

The firm added it has not been sold for three weeks and the recall only affects products that may still be in consumer freezers. The hepatitis A virus is resistant to heating and freezing.

Berries from Canada and China

Around 48,000 units of frozen mixed berries were distributed nationally in October 2016 with most sold by March 2017.

Blueberries were sourced from Canada and strawberries, raspberries and blackberries from China.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a short-term illness that rarely results in symptoms in young children. Symptoms in older children and adults include abdominal pain, nausea, fever and chills and yellow skin or eyes.

While symptoms are not usually severe, vulnerable people, for example people with supressed immune systems can become seriously affected.

Berries were packaged in China before being shipped to Australia and repackaged in Melbourne.

It is not known how the berries may have been contaminated. Hepatitis A virus can be transmitted through contaminated water or soil or through contact with an infected person.

The first illness associated with the berries was identified in South Australia on 4 May.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) said the product is being tested to determine if frozen mixed berries are the cause but the supplier has made a consumer level recall.

Glen Neal, acting FSANZ CEO, said it is working with enforcement and public health agencies at state, territory and Commonwealth level to investigate.

​“The supplier is advising anyone who has Creative Gourmet frozen mixed berries 300g packs with a best before date of 15 January 2021 at home to check their freezer and return any opened or unopened product to the place of purchase for a full refund or dispose of them,” he said.

“The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services is working with the supplier who has advised that all frozen berry products are tested before distribution for hepatitis A, E. coli and coliforms and that no tests to date have returned a positive result.”

FSANZ said consumers should not be concerned about purchasing or consuming any other frozen berry brands or batches of Creative Gourmet. 

It added given the small number of cases to date and the fact most of the product has been sold or destroyed it is unlikely there will be a large increase although more cases can’t be ruled out.

Creative Gourmet mixed berries were recalled in 2015 after a link to Hepatitis A illnesses.

Cases have an identical sequence to those sickened in that outbreak but the product was not in the market at the time of that recall. 

The berries in question were imported in early 2015. There is no evidence of cases of hepatitis A associated with imported berries since border controls started in February 2015.

An increased level of routine testing of frozen berries was introduced Australia-wide following the 2015 outbreak. 

In 2016, 144 cases of hepatitis A were notified across Australia compared to more than 18,000 cases of salmonellosis and 24,000 of campylobacteriosis.

Hepatitis A in tuna

Meanwhile, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are assessing the risk of hepatitis A virus from frozen tuna sourced from Sustainable Seafood Company, Vietnam and Santa Cruz Seafood Inc., Philippines.

Hilo Fish Company recalled frozen yellowfin tuna steaks sourced from Sustainable Seafood Company and yellowfin tuna cubes from Santa Cruz Seafood that tested positive on 18 May.

It includes Tuna Steaks, 8 oz. individually vacuum packed bags, production date code: 627152, lot number: 166623; expiration date: 2018-10-1 and Frozen Yellowfin tuna cubes, random; Individually vacuum packed; 15 lb. case, date code: 705342, lot number: 173448; expiration date: 2019-4-1).

The recall resulted from follow-up by the Hawaii Department of Health which told the FDA of a frozen tuna sample sourced from PT Deho Canning Co. (JL. Raya Madidir, Bitung, Indonesia) that tested positive for hepatitis A on 1 May.

Tropic Fish Hawaii LLC, a subsidiary distributor of Hilo Fish Company, recalled the affected product which was distributed to customers in Oahu, Hawaii. It includes lot codes 609149 and 609187 but none of it is believed to still be in the market.

Newly recalled lots were not shipped to Hawaii but were sent to mainland US.

Hilo Fish Company submitted samples of shipments in its cold storage facility in Hawaii to a private laboratory for testing and received positive results for the hepatitis A virus.

The CDC is not aware of any illnesses linked to the products.

FDA has a list of establishments in Texas, Oklahoma and California that may have potentially contaminated tuna to help alert consumers that may be at risk.

The New York State Department of Health and FDA verified product shipped there were not sold to the public.

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