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Hepatitis A found in tuna; time limited for post-exposure shots

People who recently ate poke in Hawaii that was prepared with contaminated, frozen raw tuna still have time to receive post-exposure vaccinations for Hepatitis A. The frozen ahi cubes were distributed to retailers, restaurants and caterers by Tropic Fish Hawaii LLC and was sold to the public between April 27 and May 1 on Oahu.

“Because it generally takes two weeks for those infected to develop symptoms of Hepatitis A, vaccination or immune globulin can still provide some protection against the disease for those who may have been exposed in the last week,” state epidemiologist Sarah Park said in a Department of Health news release.

ahicubes_406x250The implicated frozen ahi cubes are from Indonesia. Wholesaler Tropic Fish Hawaii distributed the tuna to several grocery stores and other customers before receiving screening test results for the Hepatitis A virus.

Anyone who ate poke made with the implicated tuna between April 27 and May 1 at any of the following locations should seek medical attention to determine if they need the post-exposure vaccine:

  • Times Supermarket and Shima’s locations in Aiea, Kailua, Kaneohe, Kunia, Liliha, Mililani, Waipahu and Waimanalo;
  • GP Hawaiian Food Catering; and
  • Crab Shack Kapolei, also known as Maile Sunset Bar & Grill in Kapolei.

Earlier reports that the recalled, contaminated tuna had been sold at Aloha Sushi at 3131 N. Nimitz and the ABC store at 205 Lewers St. were incorrect, according to statements Tropical Fish president Shawn Tanoue provided to local media.

“Our normal procedure is to receive the test results prior to distribution, but unfortunately that did not happen with this particular shipment,” Tanoue told the Pacific Business News. “We have corrected our procedures to ensure this will not happen again. I want to personally apologize to our customers and the public. We are a local company and pride ourselves in our work and in providing the highest-quality products.”

The distributor, which is a subsidiary of CMU and Associates on the Big Island, recalled the imported, frozen raw tuna and notified its customers not to use it after learning of the positive test results for Hepatitis A on Monday, according to the Hawaii Department of Health.

About 140 out of 200 cases of the frozen ahi cubes were recovered before they were sold to distributors. The remaining products were reportedly picked up before they reached retail customers.

The Hawaii Department of Health is working with the Tropic Fish Hawaii LLC and visiting all affected facilities to ensure proper sanitation and decontamination procedures are taken, according to the department’s news release. The implicated tuna is embargoed by the state until further testing is determined and coordination with federal authorities is completed.

FDA warned Tropic Fish Hawaii in July 2016 about food safety violations
A warning letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on July 27, 2016, cited Tropic Fish for producing ahi tuna, mahi mahi, and skipjack tuna under insanitary conditions.

FDA told company president Tanoue in the warning letter that Tropic Fish needed a seafood HACCP plan for its fresh, refrigerated histamine-forming fish and keep it at 40 degrees F or below. The Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point plan is required by federal law.

Other specific violations noted in the July 2016 FDA warning letter include:

  • Failure to keep seafood properly refrigerated;
  • Failure to properly document employee health conditions that could result in the microbiological contamination of food, food packaging materials, and food contact surfaces;
  • Inspector’s observation of an employee dragging tuna across the floor onto a pallet after management instructed the employee to place the fish onto pallets; and
  • Improper and inadequate temperature monitoring of seafood.

Advice to consumers

People who have recently been exposed to Hepatitis A and who have not been vaccinated previously should be administered a single dose of single-antigen Hepatitis A vaccine within two weeks after exposure, according to the CDC. The average incubation period for Hepatitis A is 28 days, but symptoms can appear 15 to 50 days after exposure. (Photo courtesy of the CDC)

People who have recently been exposed to Hepatitis A and who have not been vaccinated previously should be administered a single dose of single-antigen Hepatitis A vaccine within two weeks after exposure, according to the CDC. The average incubation period for Hepatitis A is 28 days, but symptoms can appear 15 to 50 days after exposure. (Photo courtesy of the CDC)

It will be some time before the Hawaii state health department can give the all clear signal. The incubation period for Hepatitis A runs from two to six weeks. Health officials are urging consumers who ate poke with tuna at the locations listed above to not wait for symptoms to develop before seeking medical attention.

Symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, diarrhea, and yellow skin and eyes. Anyone, including foodservice employees, exhibiting symptoms of Hepatitis A should stay home and contact their healthcare provider, according to the state health department news release.

The post-exposure vaccine must be taken within two weeks of exposure or it is not effective, the health department reported.

“While vaccination provides the best protection, frequent hand washing with soap and water after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, and before preparing food can help prevent the spread of hepatitis A. Appropriately cooking foods can also help to prevent infection,” according to the state health department.

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