The CDC reports as of June 14, 2013, we are investigating acute hepatitis A illnesses in 106 people in eight states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Washington.
Investigation by state and local health departments, FDA, and CDC is ongoing. Costco notified its members who purchased this product since late February 2013, and has removed the “Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend” frozen berry and pomegranate mix from its shelves.
FDA has begun an inspection of the processing facilities of Townsend Farms of Fairview, Oregon.
The FDA is also finalizing a protocol to test berries for the Hepatitis A virus (HAV), and will be testing samples related to the outbreak, including the frozen blend for the presence of HAV.
On June 3, 2013, Townsend Farms, Inc. of Fairview, Oregon voluntarily recalled certain lots of its frozen Organic Antioxidant Blend because it has the potential to be contaminated with hepatitis A virus.
Preliminary laboratory studies of specimens from five states suggest the outbreak strain of hepatitis A virus (HAV) is genotype 1B. This strain is rarely seen in the Americas but circulates in North Africa and the Middle East.
This genotype was identified in a 2013 outbreak in Europe linked to frozen berries and another 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 current U.S. outbreak.
According to the label, the “Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend” frozen berry and pomegranate mix associated with illness contained products originating from the U.S., Argentina, Chile, and Turkey.
Hepatitis A is a human disease and usually occurs when an infected food handler prepares food without appropriate hand hygiene. However, food contaminated with HAV, as is suspected in this outbreak, can cause outbreaks of disease among persons who eat or handle food.