The FDA Is Investigating Hepatitis A Cases Linked to Organic Strawberries
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that it is currently investigating an outbreak of hepatitis A that could be connected to fresh organic strawberries that were sold in the United States and Canada. According to the agency's website, the potentially affected strawberries were sold under the brands FreshKampo or HEB. The strawberries that are under investigation would've been sold between March 5 and April 25, so if you bought berries several weeks ago and put them in the freezer, it's definitely worth checking the packaging.
The potentially affected strawberries were distributed and sold nationwide at retailers that include Aldi, HEB, Kroger, Safeway, Sprouts Farmers Market, Trader Joe's, Walmart, Weis Markets, and WinCo Foods.
"People who purchased the fresh strawberries and then froze those strawberries for later consumption should not eat them. They should be thrown away," the agency wrote. "Currently, the potentially affected product is past its shelf life. If you are unsure of what brand you purchased, when you purchased your strawberries, or where you purchased them from prior to freezing them, the strawberries should be thrown away.
As of this writing, 17 cases of hepatitis A potentially connected to eating strawberries have been reported in the United States, including 12 hospitalizations and zero deaths. Fifteen of those cases were in California, with one in Minnesota and one in North Dakota. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has reported an additional 10 cases of hepatitis A, all of them in the provinces of Alberta or Saskatchewan.
In a statement obtained by USA Today, FreshKampo says that the potentially affected strawberries would be labeled "Distributed by Meridian Fruits" and marked as products of Mexico. "FreshKampo wants consumers to know that it will continue to work with health officials and supply chain partners to determine where a problem may have occurred along the supply chain and take necessary measures to prevent it from happening again," the company said.
In a statement posted to its website, HEB said that "all strawberries sold at HEB are safe" and that none of the illnesses connected to the investigation had been sold at HEB's stores or in Texas.
The FDA reports that, so far, all of the illnesses were reported between March 28 and April 30. The agency does warn that if anyone ate any potentially affected strawberries within the last two weeks, then they should contact their healthcare provider to determine whether they need a hepatitis A vaccine. If the vaccine is given within 14 days of exposure to the virus, it can prevent a hepatitis A infection. (Anyone who has previously been vaccinated against hepatitis A or who has previously had hepatitis A would not need to be vaccinated.)
It also recommends that anyone who has eaten previously frozen strawberries within the past two weeks and has any symptoms of hepatitis A — which can include abdominal pain, fatigue, jaundice, nausea, or vomiting — should contact their healthcare provider.