Belgian officials have issued a warning because of incidents of hepatitis infections being linked to dietary supplements containing curcumin.

The Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC) cited a notification in the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) detailing cases of acute cholestatic hepatitis following consumption of various dietary supplements containing curcumin.

This alert is not public and a spokeswoman from the agency told Food Safety News there had been no cases in Belgium and only one product listed in the RASFF alert was sold in the country.

Food supplement recalled in Italy

FASFC reported the exact source of contamination was not yet clearly established but was probably due to the presence of curcumin. Curcumin is a substance in turmeric.

The curcumin was used in lot 1810224 of the food supplement “Curcuma Liposomal and poivre noir.” The company Plastimea SA decided to withdraw the product branded Nutrimea from sale. It has an expiration date of October 2021 and was sold between Oct. 23, 2018, and May 24 this year on Amazon France.

Italian authorities first raised the alert in May with two reports of hepatitis. The National Institute of Health (Istituto Superiore di Sanità) in the country reported 21 cases as of June 20.

The number of products affected has grown from two to more than 20 involving firms such as Frama SRL, Scharper S.p.A, Vanatari International GmbH, Ekappa Laboratori S.r.l., and Fidia Farmaceutici S.p.A.

Infected food handler
Meanwhile, the number of people with hepatitis A connected with a school in Ripon, a city in North Yorkshire County in England, has increased by two to 19. Reports of new infections connected to Outwood Academy have slowed down during the past week.

Public Health England (PHE) is reviewing data on food eaten in the school canteen to find the source of the outbreak.

To reduce the spread of the illness, it is important to wash hands after going to the toilet and/or before preparing food, according to PHE.

Hepatitis A is a viral infection which affects the liver. It is passed from person to person by eating food or drinking water containing the virus.

Four other infections have been confirmed in the wider community since June 19. One of these worked as a food handler at “So! Bar and Eats” in Ripon but no cases have been identified among diners. Other sites in the “So! Bar and Eats” group are not affected.

Anyone who ate at the restaurant from June 8 to 23 should be aware of symptoms of hepatitis A, such as jaundice which causes the skin and whites of the eyes to turn yellow which could indicate infection.

Dr. Simon Padfield, consultant in Communicable Disease Control at PHE Yorkshire and the Humber, said the other ill people do not appear to be linked to Outwood Academy or have any common links between them.

“Environmental Health Officers from Harrogate Borough Council have visited So! Bar and Eats in Ripon and it’s important to stress that the risk of diners developing the infection has been assessed as low, but if they develop symptoms, they should contact their GP (general practitioner) or NHS 111 for advice. People who have visited ‘So! Bar and Eats’ outside of these dates are not at increased risk and are urged not to contact GPs if they remain well,” he said.

“I understand that the confirmation of further cases in the community may be of concern, but it’s important to remember that the risk remains low. NHS services are identifying cases of Hepatitis A and providing care promptly and those affected are recovering. Their household contacts are being followed up to reduce the risk of the infection spreading. Hepatitis A is usually a mild illness, though it can be more serious in adults. GPs in North Yorkshire remain vigilant to further cases.”

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)