Berry Mix Being Recalled Over Hepatitis A Fears

Frozen berries are being voluntarily recalled in multiple states.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a public health alertTrusted SourceWednesday regarding the recall of frozen berries that may be contaminated with hepatitis A.

The contamination was identified by the FDA during a frozen berry sampling assignment.

So far, there have been no hepatitis A cases linked to the berries, however, the FDA is urging people to throw away or return the contaminated products.

If you ate the berries and have not been vaccinated for the hepatitis A virus (HAV), the FDA recommends consulting your healthcare provider to see if you may need post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) — a vaccine that can be given up to two weeks after exposure to help prevent infection.

HAV is highly contagious, and if left untreated, can cause serious illness, including a liver infection.

Cases of hepatitis ATrusted Source have dropped by nearly 95 percent since the vaccine was introduced to the United States in 1995.

That said, outbreaks still occur when people unknowingly ingest the virus from food or drinks contaminated with small amounts of feces from an infected person.

“Although foodborne illnesses caused by hepatitis ATrusted Source are not common in the U.S., water, shellfish, frozen vegetables and fruit (berries), and salads are most frequently cited as potential foodborne sources,” the FDA states on its websiteTrusted Source.

This is one of the berry blends that’s being voluntarily recalled.
Here are the contaminated products

The berries were produced by Townsend Farms, Inc. and were sold at Costco in California — specifically San Diego and Los Angeles — and Hawaii.

The recalled product is being sold as Kirkland Signature Three Berry Blend, 4 lb. bag.

This contamination comes just a week after Kroger recalled multiple frozen berry productsTrusted Source for a potential hepatitis A contamination.

Those berries were sold at most of Kroger’s stores in 25 states.

The recalled Kroger products, which were also manufactured by Townsend Farms, Inc., are being sold as: Private Selection Frozen Triple Berry Medley, both 48 oz. and 16 oz., and Private Selection Frozen Blackberries, 16 oz.

Hepatitis A can cause serious health issues

Hepatitis A is a viral infection that’s transmitted primarily through feces.

“A food product gets contaminated with hepatitis A when fecal matter from someone handling the food finds its way onto it,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease physician and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

The virus has a long incubation period, which can last anywhere from 15 to 50 days after infection.

People who are infected may then experience nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and jaundice.

Other symptomsTrusted Source include:

  • fever
  • fatigue
  • diarrhea
  • joint pain
  • dark urine

If you experience any of these symptoms after eating the berries, you should seek medical attention immediately.

“While the majority of patients will have self-resolution, there is a small percentage (less than 1 percent) who will have severely compromised liver injury that requires immediate recognition and care,” said Dr. Amanda Cheung, a hepatologist at Stanford Health Care.

Foodborne outbreaks are not uncommon

According to Adalja, outbreaks related to food are becoming more common in the United States.

In 2016, over 140 people in nine states were infected with hepatitis A after eating contaminated frozen strawberriesTrusted Source.

Another outbreak occurred in Hawaii in 2016 after nearly 300 people fell ill after eating contaminated frozen scallops.

In addition, there are several widespread outbreaksTrusted Source across the United States, which are predominately transmitted via people who use injectable drugs and homeless individuals.

These sorts of outbreaks could coalesce if, for example, someone using injectable drugs who has hepatitis A handles food at a restaurant or food facility, Adalja said.

Should you get vaccinated?

Though the hepatitis A vaccine has been a routine childhood immunization since 2000, there are still many adults who aren’t immune.

Most healthy adults who aren’t immune don’t need to get vaccinated against hepatitis A, according to Adalja.

If you’re traveling to a country in which exposure to hepatitis A is likely — which would be listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — it’s definitely worth getting the shot.

Additionally, those who fall into a high-risk group — such as those with HIV, chronic liver disease, hepatitis C, and hepatitis B — should get vaccinated.

Adalja also recommends that food service workers be routinely vaccinated as well, due to their potential role in hepatitis A outbreaks.

One dose of the hepatitis A vaccine provides up to 95 percent protection for 11 years, according to the CDCTrusted Source.

If you’ve already had hepatitis A, you will have lifelong immunity.

“In other words, you can only be infected once in your lifetime. If you are exposed again after that, you will have immunity to fight the infection,” Cheung explained.

The bottom line

Packages of frozen berries have been recalled after the FDA identified a hepatitis A contamination.

Hepatitis A is highly contagious and can cause liver failure in serious cases. There have been no cases linked to the contamination yet, and health officials are urging people to throw the berries away immediately.