Hepatitis A Outbreak From Frozen Fruit Mix Sold At Costco
June 2, 2013

Pomegranate Seeds In Frozen Berry Mix Suspected To Be Cause Of Hepatitis A Outbreak

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

An acute hepatitis A outbreak that has caused at least 30 people across five states to fall ill has been linked to a blend of frozen berries and pomegranates sold in the US by Costco, various media outlets have reported.

The product is question is a frozen berry blend known as the Townsend Farms Organic Anti-oxidant Blend Frozen Berry Mix, according to Elizabeth Weise of USA Today. Costco has removed the product from its store shelves and is attempting to get in touch with any members who purchased the product since late February — two months before the first victims fell ill, according to the CDC.

Weise added that health officials “don't yet know if the product was sold at other stores or markets.” There is concern that some small businesses may have purchased the berry blend at Costco for use in other products, as frozen berry blends are often used to make smoothies, frozen alcoholic beverages, or other drinks and desserts, she said.

The outbreak has been specifically linked to contaminated pomegranate seeds from Turkey used in the fruit blend, Townsend Farms attorney William E. Gaar told CNN on Friday. "There is no indication that cherries and other berries are contaminated," Gaar added, though state health departments, the CDC and the FDA said that they will continue to investigate the incident.

Since April 29, 17 individuals in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and California have contracted hepatitis A, which is a contagious liver disease that can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months, according to the Associated Press (AP).

Eleven of those individuals reported eating the Townsend Farms product, the wire service said.

The ages of the 17 victims range from 25 to 71, and the most recent case was reported on May 17, according to USA Today and the AP. The CDC reports that the same genotype of the disease was identified in a European outbreak earlier this year, as well as a 2012 outbreak in British Columbia — both of which were linked to frozen berry blends.

“Hepatitis A illnesses occur within 15 to 50 days of exposure to the virus. Symptoms include fatigue, abdominal pain, jaundice, abnormal liver tests, dark urine and pale stool,” the AP said. “Vaccination can prevent illness if given within two weeks of exposure, and those who have already been vaccinated are unlikely to become ill.”