Editor’s note: On June 10 the FDA revised its alert to say that consumers should avoid and throw away only certain Private Selection brand frozen products containing blackberries. Initially the agency warned against all frozen fruit packaged under Kroger’s Private Selection brand. This story has been edited to reflect that change.
Federal officials issued a public alert tonight warning about frozen berries that have tested positive for hepatitis A contamination. Private Selection brand berries sold at Kroger stores and other retailers are consequently under recall. The FDA alert applies to all Private Selection brand frozen fruit.
Laboratory tests conducted as part of an ongoing special project revealed the contamination, according to the public alert from the Food and Drug Administration. The agency didn’t report how many packages or pounds of the frozen berries were distributed. The Kroger Co. recall notice says the implicated berries were “manufactured” by Townsend Farms. In 2013 frozen fruit from Townsend Farms was linked to a 10-state hepatitis A outbreak.
“The FDA is advising consumers not to eat and to throw away certain frozen blackberry products purchased from Kroger and other retail locations packaged under Kroger’s ‘Private Selection’ brand,” according to the FDA alert.
“These products are available at Kroger and other retail locations and have a two-year shelf life. The FDA is working with the manufacturer on this matter. . . . The FDA is continuing to investigate to determine whether there are other implicated products.”
As of the posting of the alert this evening, neither the FDA nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had received notice of any confirmed hepatitis A illnesses in connection with the implicated fruit. However, it can take up to 50 days after exposure for symptoms of hepatitis A infection to develop. Some people don’t develop symptoms, but they are carriers of the virus and can infect others.
As reported in the FDA alert, the blackberries subject to the recall are labeled as follows:
PRIVATE SELECTION FROZEN TRIPLE BERRY MEDLEY, 48 OZ (BEST BY: 07-07-20; UPC: 0001111079120);
- PRIVATE SELECTION FROZEN TRIPLE BERRY MEDLEY, 16 OZ (BEST BY: 06-19-20; UPC: 0001111087808);
- PRIVATE SELECTION FROZEN BLACKBERRIES, 16 OZ (BEST BY: 06-19-20, 07-02-20; UPC: 0001111087809)
The FDA alert did not report when the blackberries had been distributed to retailers or made available to consumers.
However, Kroger’s recall notice on the FDA website says all of the company’s grocery chains received the recalled frozen berries. Stores include:
- Supermarkets – Kroger, Ralphs, Dillons, Smith’s, King Soopers, Fry’s, QFC, City Market, Owen’s, Jay C, Pay Less, Baker’s, Gerbes, Pick ‘n Save, Copps, Metro Market, Mariano’s
- Multi-department stores – Fred Meyer
- Dillons Marketplace, Fry’s Marketplace, King Soopers Marketplace, Kroger Marketplace, Smith’s Marketplace
- Price-impact warehouse stores – Food 4 Less, Foods Co
Harris Teeter stores are also in the Kroger Co. “family” of banners, but a spokeswoman for the Harris Teeter stores told Food Safety News none of them had received any of the implicated berries.
People who have eaten the blackberries in the past two weeks could benefit from post-exposure vaccine treatment. The treatment is not effective if given more than two weeks after exposure, according to the CDC. Most adults have not been vaccinated because the vaccine was not available before the mid-1990s.
“The FDA recommends that consumers who consumed the frozen berries listed above and have not been vaccinated for HAV consult with their healthcare professional to determine whether post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is indicated,” according to the FDA alert.
“Contact your healthcare provider if you think you may have become ill from eating frozen blackberries, or if you believe that you have eaten any of the frozen blackberry products noted above within the last two weeks.”
Kroger has removed the recalled items from store shelves and initiated its customer recall notification system, according to the company’s recall notice on the FDA website. The system alerts customers who may have purchased recalled products through “register receipt tape messages” and phone calls. Customers who have questions can call 800-KROGERS.
Hepatitis A virus (HAV) can result in a liver infection that may not be apparent, according to the FDA alert. However, when symptoms occur, they can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Contamination of food with the hepatitis A virus can happen at any point, from growing through harvesting, processing, handling, and even after cooking.
Hepatitis A can have a long incubation period and can have serious health consequences for some people, especially those who are immune-compromised. People infected with HAV may not have symptoms until 15 to 50 days after exposure, which often makes it difficult to determine the exact exposure that led to illness. Symptoms may include fever, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, yellowing of the skin or eyes (known as jaundice), dark urine, and pale stool. Some adults and many young children do not show symptoms of HAV infection even though they are carrying the virus and can infect others.
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