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Food Safety News

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Outbreak of Rare Hepatitis Continues to Grow in Western States

The Hepatitis A outbreak continues in eight western states with the case count as of June 14 rising to 106. The illnesses are blamed on an organic blend of frozen berries and pomegranate seeds from multiple countries.  Produced by Oregon-based Townsend Farms and sold at Costco and Harris Teeter stores, the frozen berry blend has caused Hepatitis A cases in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Washington.

In an update today on its investigation, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta profiled the cases based on available epidemiologic data from 94 of the 106 cases under investigation:

  • 57 (61 percent) ill people are women
  • Ages range from 2 – 87 years
  • Illness onset dates range from 3/16/2013 – 6/8/2013
  • 47 (50 percent) ill people have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported
  • 76 of 94 (81 percent) ill people interviewed reported eating “Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend” frozen berry and pomegranate mix

All those who reported eating this product purchased it from Costco Wholesale stores. No cases have been identified that bought the product at Harris Teeter at this time.

Investigation by CDC, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and state and local health departments is ongoing. Costco notified its members who purchased this product since late February 2013, and has removed the “Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend” frozen berry and pomegranate mix from its shelves.

FDA, according to the update, has also begun an inspection of the processing facilities of Townsend Farms located in Fairview, Oregon.

Two new lawsuits were filed against Townsend Farms late last week.  The lawsuits were brought by Seattle-based Marler Clark, the law firm that underwrites Food Safety News.

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