Costco Organic Berry Mix Linked to Hepatitis A Outbreak

June 3, 2013 — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued a warning that a multi-state outbreak of Hepatitis A may be linked to a frozen organic berry mix sold by Costco. The grocery wholesaler has recalled all lots of Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend after 11 out of 17 patients interviewed recalled eating the product. As of May 31, reports of 30 infections from 5 states: Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, and California.

Hepatitis A is a contagious viral liver disease. It usually occurs when an infected food handler does not wash their hands while preparing food, contaminating the food with fecal matter. Even microscopic amounts can spread the disease.

The severity of Hepatitis A infection varies from a mild illness lasting a couple weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. In this outbreak, at least 9 people have required hospitalization. The illness typically occurs within 15 to 50 days after exposure to the virus.

The strain identified in two cases suggest the hepatitis A virus genotype 1B, which is extremely rare in North America but is common in North Africa and Middle East. In 2012, an outbreak of Hepatitis A in British Columbia was linked to pomegranate seeds grown in Egypt. Pomegranate seeds in the recalled organic berry mix were produced in the U.S., Argentina, Chile, and Turkey.

Symptoms of Hepatitis A infection:

  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
  • Diarrhea
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Pale-colored stool

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