Federal and state health officials are investigating an outbreak of Hepatitis A illnesses in several states they believe may be stemming from Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend, a mixture of frozen organic berries from an Oregon producer.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , 11 patients out of 17 interviewed so far remember eating Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend berries made by Townsend Farms of Fairview, Oregon.
FDA and CDC officials are inspecting the producer’s facilities and testing berries processed there for the presence of Hepatitis A. So far, 30 people from five western states have become infected with Hepatitis A. The illnesses have been reported in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico.
Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis A virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting several weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. In terms of mass-produced food, the Hepatitis A virus is typically spread when a food handler touches the food without wearing gloves or taking the proper steps to ensure hygienic precautions. The virus is present in the fecal matter of an infected person and is highly contagious even in microscopic amounts.
Hepatitis A-related illnesses occur within 15 to 50 days of exposure. Symptoms include fatigue, abdominal pain, jaundice, abnormal liver tests, dark urine and pale stool.
Many of the sickened patients reported buying the berries at Costco. The national wholesale chain announced Friday that it had removed all the products from its stores and was attempting to contact members who bought the suspect berries in recent months.
No recall has been announced, but the CDC recommended that retailers and food-service companies avoid selling or serving the frozen berry mixture.
A lawyer for Townsend Farms told the Associated Press that the blend of berries suspected in the outbreak contains pomegranate seeds from Turkey. The company adds those pomegranate seeds only to the particular mixture associated with the Hepatitis outbreak, the lawyer told the AP.
The CDC said that the strain of Hepatitis is commonly found in North Africa and the Middle East and is rarely seen in North and South America.