Two brands of frozen berries are subject to nationwide recalls in Australia now that at least five people have been sickened with Hepatitis A virus. The illnesses have been linked to two brands of frozen berries: Nanna’s Frozen Mixed Berries and Creative Gourmet Mixed Berries. Health officials have connected the products to at least three cases in the state of Victoria and two in New South Wales. The following products are subject to recall:
- Nanna’s Frozen Mixed Berries in one-kilogram bags with best-before dates up to Nov. 22, 2016
- Creative Gourmet Mixed Berries in 300-gram bags with best-before dates up to Dec. 10, 2017
- Creative Gourmet Mixed Berries in 500-gram bags with best-before dates up to Oct. 6, 2017
The frozen berries, repackaged and distributed by Patties Foods in Bairnsdale, East Victoria, include strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries from China, and blueberries from Chile. They were mainly distributed to Woolworths, Coles and IGA supermarkets in Australia. Health officials reportedly confirmed on Sunday that the contamination had been traced back to the source of the berries in China, which reportedly had been washed and packaged at the same facility in Eastern China’s Shandong province. “The particular risk that we’ve identified here is that a country that has endemic Hepatitis A, that is China, has been involved with packing these berries, sourced from both Chile and China,” said Dr. Finn Romanes of the Victoria Department of Health and Human Services. Patties Foods made the voluntary recalls at the recommendation of the Victorian Health Department. A company official said they were waiting for further test results on the berries to come in and were “likely to cut ties” with the unnamed supplier in China. “I myself, and my family, consume the product so I am equally concerned as consumers are, because I have bags of Nanna’s and Creative Gourmet in my freezer,” said Patties Managing Director Steven Chaur, adding, “We will certainly be working with the supplier to undertake a full review of how this may have occurred.” Frozen berries have been linked to numerous Hepatitis A outbreaks around the world in recent years. In 2013, frozen berry mixes from Townsend Farms sold at Costco stores sickened at least 162 people with Hepatitis A in the U.S. The contamination was ultimately traced back to pomegranate seeds in the mix that were sourced from Turkey. Also in 2013, frozen berry mixes sickened at least 1,444 Europeans with Hepatitis A. Hepatitis A is a communicable disease that spreads via the “fecal-oral route.” Food-related outbreaks are usually associated with food contaminated during cultivation, harvesting, processing or distribution. Symptoms of Hepatitis A infection may include fatigue, diarrhea, stomach cramps, dark urine and jaundice. Approximately 10 to 12 days after exposure, symptoms may begin to appear, and Hepatitis A is present in an infected person’s blood and is excreted into their feces. In general, symptoms of Hepatitis A infection usually last less than two months, although relapse is not unknown. Unlike chronic forms of Hepatitis, such as B and C, individuals with Hepatitis A infections typically recover. Once a person has recovered from a Hepatitis A infection, they are immune to the virus.