The CDC reports that 155 people in 9 states have become ill from hepatitis A after eating frozen mixed berries with 67 people that had been hospitalized. The source of the Hepatitis A was the pomegranate seeds which were imported from Turkey.
The outbreak was first reported at the end of May, with cases beginning in April and extending into July. The reason is that symptoms do not occur for 2 to 6 weeks after exposure, and then those symptoms can last 2 to 6 months. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, dark urine, and of course, jaundice . Although most people recover, it can cause liver failure in more susceptible individuals (elderly, people with liver disease) .
The organic frozen berry mix was sold by an Oregon company, Townsend Farms, and distributed through Costco. The blend is produced using fresh fruit and then is bought and used fresh by customers to make smoothies and other fruit drinks. So if Hepatitis A is present on the incoming ingredients, it will not be eliminated by processing (viruses will easily survive freezing), and then end up in product the consumer eats. With the long delay in seeing symptoms, it is easy to see why so many may have become infected.
The strain of Hepatitis A is found primarily in North Africa and the Middle East, and one of the ingredients, pomegranate seeds, is said to come from Turkey.
Food safety is important for ingredients used in products that will be used in RTE (ready-to-eat) applications, This is especially difficult when those ingredients are purchased in international markets. If this company lives up to the promise posted on their website, they should have no problems working back to the source of the issue. Unfortunately, this is not the first time berries have been involved in outbreaks. Earlier this year, there was an outbreak in Europe (71) and another in Canada (8). The Canadian product contained pomegranate. So at this point, if a company is using pomegranate, it may be good to stop using it until the safety can be verified. As a consumer, I would forgo my pomegranate-containing smoothie.
Multistate outbreak of hepatitis A virus infections linked to pomegranate seeds from Turkey
Posted July 30, 2013 9:15 AM ET
CDC is collaborating with public health officials in several states and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate a multistate outbreak of hepatitis A virus infections. Results from the ongoing investigation are highlighted below.
· As of July 29, 2013, 155 people have been confirmed to have become ill from hepatitis A after eating ‘Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend’ in 9 states: Arizona (23), California (76), Colorado (27), Hawaii (8), New Hampshire (1), New Mexico (9), Nevada (6), Utah (3), and Wisconsin (2). [Note: The cases reported from Wisconsin resulted from exposure to the product in California, and the cases reported from New Hampshire reported fruit exposure during travel to Nevada.]
o 86 (55%) ill people are women
o Ages range from 1 – 84 years;
- 87 (56%) of those ill were between 40 – 64 years of age.
- 11 children age 18 or under were also ill. None were previously vaccinated.
o Illness onset dates range from 3/31/2013 – 7/14/2013
o 67 (43%) ill people (all over 18 years of age) have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported
o All ill people who reported eating this product purchased it from Costco markets; however, the product was also sold at Harris Teeter stores. No ill people have been identified that bought the product at Harris Teeter at this time.
o CDC continues to track hepatitis A cases in all states and test specimens in order to determine if any other cases are related to this outbreak.
· The major outbreak strain of hepatitis A virus, belonging to genotype 1B, was found in clinical specimens of 107 people in eight states: AZ, CA, CO, HI, NH (travel to Nevada), NM, NV, and WI (exposed in California). This genotype is rarely seen in the Americas but circulates in North Africa and the Middle East.
· This genotype was identified in a 2013 outbreak of hepatitis A virus infections in Europe linked to frozen berries and a 2012 outbreak in British Columbia related to a frozen berry blend with pomegranate seeds from Egypt. However, there is no evidence at this time that these outbreaks are related to the ongoing U. S. outbreak.
· By combining information gained from FDA’s traceback and traceforward investigations and the CDC’s epidemiological investigation, FDA and CDC have determined that the most likely vehicle for the hepatitis A virus appears to be a common shipment of pomegranate seeds from a company in Turkey, Goknur Foodstuffs Import Export Trading.
o FDA will detain shipments of pomegranate seeds from Goknur when they are offered for import into the United States.
o These pomegranate seeds were used by Townsend Farms to make the Townsend Farms and Harris Teeter Organic Antioxidant Blends and by Scenic Fruit Company to make the Woodstock Frozen Organic Pomegranate Kernels.
o FDA will be working with the firms that have distributed pomegranate seeds from this shipment from Turkey to help ensure that all recipients of these seeds are notified.
· On June 4, 2013, Townsend Farms, Inc. of Fairview, Oregon voluntarily recalled certain lots of its frozen Organic Antioxidant Blend because of potential hepatitis A virus contamination.
o On June 28, 2013, Townsend Farms, Inc. of Fairview, Oregon, expanded its voluntary limited lot recall of frozen Organic Antioxidant Blend, 3 lb . because of potential hepatitis A virus contamination.
· On June 26, 2013, Scenic Fruit Company of Gresham, Oregon recalled specific lots of Woodstock Frozen Organic Pomegranate Kernels because of potential hepatitis A virus contamination.
· Additional information regarding these recalls is updated regularly at: FDA Investigates Multistate Outbreak of Hepatitis A Illnesses Associated with Pomegranate seeds from Turkish Importer .
· Consumers should not eat recalled products containing pomegranate seeds. The recalled products should be discarded.
FDA bans import of Turkish firm’s pomegranate arils –
07/18/2013 05:28:00 PM Coral Beach
See more at: http://www.thepacker.com/fruit-vegetable-news/FDA-bans-import-of-Turkish-firms-pomegranate-arils-216075911.html#sthash.Uv5UPdQQ.dpuf
With cases of hepatitis A linked to frozen pomegranate arils continuing to be diagnosed, the Food and Drug Administration has banned the import of the edible seeds from Goknur Foodstuffs Import Export Trading in Turkey. –
As of July 17, 149 people in eight states had been confirmed to have hepatitis A linked to the imported arils. No deaths have been reported but 65 people have been admitted to hospitals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The first confirmed illnesses of the outbreak began March 31.
The FDA reports that all 149 sick people reported consuming Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend of frozen berries. The Fairview, Ore., company, which also distributes fresh produce, recalled the frozen berry mix June 3.
Townsend distributed the product to Costco stores in a dozen states and to the Harris Teeter grocery store chain in the Northeast. No illnesses have been reported linked to the Organic Antioxidant Blend sold at Harris Teeter stores, according to the CDC.
On June 26, Scenic Fruit Co., of Gresham, Ore., recalled specific lots of its Woodstock Frozen Organic Pomegranate Kernels because they were linked to the outbreak.
“The epidemiological and trace back evidence developed in this investigation supported placement of pomegranate products produced by Goknur on (two import) alerts,” according to the FDA website. “The firm will remain on these import alerts until the FDA has confidence that future shipments will be in compliance.”
The CDC reports the outbreak strain of hepatitis A virus, belonging to genotype 1B, was found in clinical specimens from many of the sick people. That subtype is rarely seen in the Americas but circulates in North Africa and the Middle East, according to the CDC.
“This genotype was identified in a 2013 outbreak of hepatitis A virus infections in Europe linked to frozen berries and a 2012 outbreak in British Columbia related to a frozen berry blend with pomegranate seeds from Egypt. However, there is no evidence at this time that these outbreaks are related to the ongoing U. S. outbreak,” according to the CDC update on July 18. –