Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Hepatitis A Outbreak Linked to Frozen Berries - Canada

An outbreak of Hepatitis A in Canada has been linked to bags of mixed frozen berries.  From the label on the package, it appears that the berries are, at least in part, imported berries.

How does this occur?  Most likely an infected worker handling the fruit, probably at the point of harvest or initial processing, would have contaminated the fruit.  Because the fruit is often used without any further processing, there is no point for reduction of the virus. 

How can it be prevented?  This is a RTE product.  So strategic sourcing is critical.  Have the farms implemented GAP procedures, especially those controls for farm employee health and exclusion of ill employees?  This can be a more difficult issue with Hepatitis A where an employee can be contagious and not yet show signs of illness. 

This has not been the first issue associated with frozen fruit products, so this indicates that there is more work to do with sourcing fruit from farms with good practices.

What is the impact?  Hepatitis A is highly infectious.  There is a period of time, about two weeks, from when a person is exposed where a vaccination can be helpful.  The challenge is getting word out to those who purchased product.  Once infected, the symptoms can vary from fever, low appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches, to jaundice.  Long term liver damage can be a risk for those high risk individuals.
The Star (Canada)
Recalled Costco frozen berries linked to 13 cases of Hepatitis A
Store is offering vaccinations to those who may have eaten its Nature’s Touch Organic Berry Cherry Blend that was recalled Saturday by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

By: The Canadian Press, Published on Tue Apr 19 2016

OTTAWA—Costco is offering Hepatitis A vaccinations to anyone who purchased a frozen berry mix recently recalled by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

The CFIA recalled Nature’s Touch Organic Berry Cherry Blend on Saturday due to possible contamination. The frozen berry mix is sold exclusively at Costco stores in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says 13 cases of Hepatitis A have been linked to the product — nine in Ontario, three in Quebec, and one in Newfoundland and Labrador — with the individuals becoming sick in February and March. It says three people were hospitalized.

The health agency says anyone exposed to the recalled product, or have symptoms of Hepatitis A, should see their health care provider immediately.

The PHAC says Costco Canada is now offering free Hepatitis A vaccinations for anyone who has been affected by the recall. The agency says vaccinations can prevent the onset of symptoms if given within two weeks of exposure.

The agency says Hepatitis A can cause inflammation of the liver, and sufferers can experience a wide range of symptoms including fever, low appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches, and jaundice.

It notes the symptoms are usually mild and last one or two weeks, however, in severe cases can last several months.

The CFIA said the affected product was sold in 1.5 kg packages with best-before dates up to and including March 16, 2018 (UPC code 8 73668 00179 1). Anyone who has the product is urged to throw it out, or return it to the store where it was purchased.

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