According to news reports, a frozen fruit mix commonly used in smoothies is suspected in a hepatitis A outbreak that has affected 30 people in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Eleven of 17 ill people interviewed reported eating Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend, a mix of frozen berries and pomegranate seeds.
Company records show that the fruit mix with contaminated ingredients was sent to only Costco stores, said William E. Gaar, an attorney for Townsend Farms. Costco has removed the product from its shelves, he said.
The outbreak has been traced to a type of pomegranate seeds from Turkey that are in the Townsend Farms fruit mix, Gaar said. The mix contains pomegranate seeds and other produce from Argentina, Chile and the United States, according to the label.
Hepatitis A is usually transmitted via contaminated food or water, or by someone who’s infected, according to the Mayo Clinic website. Frequent hand-washing is recommended to limit the spread of hepatitis A.
Severe cases can lead to liver failure and death, according to the World Health Organization. There are an estimated 1.4 million cases of hepatitis A annually worldwide, according to WHO. The same genotype of hepatitis A was identified in an outbreak in Europe linked to frozen berries this year, the CDC said, as well as a 2012 outbreak in British Columbia related to a frozen berry blend with pomegranate seeds from Egypt. In addition to the United States and Turkey, the agency said the Townsend Farms berries also included products from Argentina and Chile.