The number of hepatitis A infections linked to a frozen berry mix sold nationwide has now climbed to 49, reported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tuesday.
That announcement came on the heels of the first formal recall of the implicated product, which was issued by the maker of the berry mix, Oregon-based Townsend Farms, Monday — three days after the outbreak was announced by CDC. In its recall announcement, the fruit company revealed that the product had not only been sold at Costco, which removed the berries from store shelves Thursday, but also at Harris Teeter.
This means the product was not only sold in the western United States, where all of the illnesses reported to date have occurred, but also on the East Coast, where Harris Teeter stores are located.
States currently affected by the outbreak include Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Hawaii, and California. CDC has not released the number of illnesses by state.
Patients sickened in the outbreak are between the ages of 2 and 71 years old, a markedly different age range from the one reported in CDC’s last update Monday, in which no one under the age of 25 was known to have been affected.
According to CDC, 60 percent of the patients are female. Of the 25 people for whom information is available, 19 (76 percent) report eating Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend – the name under which the product was sold at Costco – in the week prior to illness.
Harris Teeter issued its own recall of the berry mix Tuesday, noting that it had removed the product from store shelves. The berry mix was sold under the name ‘Harris Teeter Organics Antioxidant Berry Blend’ from April 19 until May 7, 2013 in 10 oz. bags marked with UPC 0 72036 70463 4. Bags bear Lot Codes of T041613E or T0401613C and a “BEST BY” code of 101614.
Costco called all of its customers known to have purchased the frozen berries on Thursday of last week. Approximately 240,000 customers were notified that they had purchased the implicated product, sold at Costco stores starting in late February of this year, according to Craig Wilson, vice president of food safety at Costco.
The frozen berry mix was sold in 3 lb. bags at Costco marked with UPC 0 78414 404448. The recalled codes are located on the back of the package with the words “BEST BY,” followed by the code T012415 sequentially through T053115, followed by a letter. All of these letter designations are included in this recall for this sequence of lot codes.
Consumers who purchased the recalled product are urged to discard them or return them to their point of purchase for a full refund.
Those who consumed the recalled berry mix within the last two weeks and have not received the hepatitis A vaccine in the past should get the vaccine from their healthcare provider, or contact their local healthcare department if they do not have a healthcare provider.
People who ate the recalled product more than 14 days ago will not benefit from the vaccine, but should keep an eye out for symptoms of hepatitis A infection, which include, nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fatigue, loss of appetite and jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes.
Hepatitis A is a virus that affects the liver. The strain of hepatitis A virus (HAV) implicated in this outbreak is rare in the United States, but more common in North Africa and the Middle East.© Food Safety News