Some frozen berries that were recalled months ago due to hepatitis A have been mistakenly put back on sale in New Zealand.

Pams brand frozen mixed berries in 500-gram packages were released from Foodstuffs South Island Hornby distribution center in error and sent to four stores.

Mixed berries from Serbia have been linked to an outbreak that has affected 35 people since June 2022. Seven cases with the outbreak sequence profile reported not consuming berries. At least 14 people have been hospitalized.

Tracing affected products
In total, 478 packs that have a best-before date of Aug. 14, 2024, were accidentally distributed following the recall in October 2022. The mistake was detected before most bags could be purchased. However, six have been sold and another four are unaccounted for. Three purchasers have been identified and contacted using available customer data.  

“We are urging consumers who bought frozen berries from New World Ashburton, Three Parks New World in Wanaka, Pak‘nSave Hornby, and Pak‘nSave Wainoni in Christchurch to check their freezers for the recalled product,” said Vincent Arbuckle, New Zealand Food Safety (NZFS) deputy director-general.

“New Zealand Food Safety is disappointed to be informed of this error given the Hepatitis A outbreak was under control. We will investigate this error and ensure Foodstuffs South Island put in place appropriate measures to prevent a reoccurrence.”

Foodstuffs South Island said the affected batch was only available to buy on January 14 from four stores. It was being stored at the distribution center until a decision was made to either return the shipment or destroy it.

“As soon as we became aware of the error … the Foodstuffs South Island stores who received the product were contacted and all product on-shelf, or in storage at the store has been removed, isolated and destroyed,” said a company statement.

“Any customers who shopped at these stores and purchased Pams Mixed Berries 500-gram on January 14 with a best-before date of Aug. 14, 2024, should either, return the product to the store for a full refund, or follow New Zealand Food Safety’s current advice for the consumption of all imported frozen berries in New Zealand, which is to briefly boil all frozen berries.”

Advice to boil frozen berries
Arbuckle said people should wash their hands before eating and preparing food.

“Consumers, especially those with chronic liver damage, the elderly, and pregnant people, should not eat frozen berries raw. Bringing them to the boil will make them safe to eat, or they can be returned to the place of purchase for a full refund,” he said.

Frozen berries should be boiled before eating them or cooked ensuring the temperature exceeds 85 degrees C (185 degrees F) for one minute.

Hepatitis A symptoms can take 15 to 50 days to develop. Early signs of liver infection can be mistaken for the flu. They include nausea and stomach pain, with jaundice (yellow skin) appearing in a few days. Some people, especially children, may have no symptoms.

As illness develops, symptoms to look out for are fever, jaundice (yellow discoloration of the eyes or skin), loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, malaise such as fatigue, and feeling tired and dark urine.

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