Random testing finds hepatitis A in pineapple chunks

Western Family brand fresh pineapple chunks

Random testing has found Hepatitis A in Western Family brand fresh pineapple chunks, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC).  

The agency said it is not clear how the virus got there as inspection at the plant showed appropriate practices and no ill worker was identified.

The risk of infection is considered to be low and no illnesses have been reported to date.

Fresh pineapple chunks 227g and 425g; Fresh peeled & cored pineapple 16oz; Fresh fruit salad 198g, 227g and 425g and Fresh citrus salad 226g sold in ready-to-go cups are affected.

Routine random sampling

BCCDC said routine random hepatitis A RNA testing was confirmed by gene sequencing of the amplicon.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency detected the virus in a pot of fresh pineapple chunks that it took from the store on August 13.

Products were sold at Overwaitea, Save-on-Foods and PriceSmart stores throughout British Columbia as well as Ferraro Foods in Trail, British Columbia.

They were Western Family brand, or unbranded, and all had a best before date of August 19. Items were produced on August 11 and were on sale from that day.

“We were made aware on August 31 pm. Although best before date was August 19 some people may consume product after that date or even freeze the product,” said BCCDC. 

“Following the inspection we obtained  further details about other implicated products e.g. fruit salad, citrus salads, which contain the pineapple chunks prepared on the same day (August 11) also cored pineapple; different sizes of product and brands: Western Family and unbranded. In total eight different products distributed in numerous Overwaitea stores in British Columbia and Alberta.”  

Hepatitis A vaccine given within 14 days of consumption can prevent HAV infection.

It is important people are aware of symptoms in case they become ill that they should seek medical attention and how to prevent transmission.

Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver caused by a virus. Individuals primarily contract it through direct contact with an infected person; however can also contract the illness indirectly by ingestion of contaminated food or water.

Illness can occur within 15 to 50 days after exposure but usually within 28 to 30 days. Individuals can be infectious one to two weeks before symptoms occur until at least one week after onset of illness.

Hepatitis A outbreak in Sydney

Meanwhile, NSW Health in Australia is investigating a hepatitis A outbreak following 12 cases in the past five weeks in Sydney and surrounding areas.

Dr Vicky Sheppeard, director communicable diseases with NSW Health, said 10 people contracted the disease in Australia –higher than the average two locally acquired cases each year.

“NSW Health is working with the NSW Food Authority to investigate the outbreak, including assessment of patterns of food distribution and any links to overseas outbreaks. However, no specific food has yet been connected to the outbreak.

“Hepatitis A is usually contracted overseas in high-risk countries, but 10 of these 12 people notified to NSW Health since July 26 have had no recent overseas travel. Two doses of vaccine prevent infection and is available through GPs.”

There have been between 41 and 82 cases of Hepatitis A each year since 2013, said NSW Health.

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