Hepatitis A outbreak from berries sickens five

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: New south wales, Infectious disease, Food, European food safety authority

Nanna’s Frozen Mixed Berry product is packed in China
Nanna’s Frozen Mixed Berry product is packed in China
Berries from Patties Foods have been linked to an Australian outbreak of Hepatitis A which has sickened at least five people.

Illnesses have come from Nanna’s Frozen Mixed Berry 1kg, which has been recalled. As a precaution, Creative Gourmet mixed berries 300g and 500g packets have also been recalled because they are produced in the same plant.

Three cases were reported in Victoria and two in New South Wales, said the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.

The Nanna’s Frozen Mixed Berry product is packed in China and distributed in Australia by Patties, based in Bairnsdale. It is distributed to Woolworths, Coles and IGA supermarkets.

Nanna’s Frozen Mixed Berry 1kg with best-before dates up to and including November 22, 2016 and Creative Gourmet 300g with best-before dates up to and including December 10, 2017, and 500g with best-before dates up to October 6, 2017 are affected.

It is not the first time berries have been linked to an outbreak – last year the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reported at least 1,444 people ill from an outbreak that began in 2013​.

Patties Foods response

Patties Foods advises consumers not to eat the product, and return packs to the place of purchase for a full cash refund.

Steven Chaur, Patties Foods MD & CEO, said: “While our quality control testing to date has not revealed any concerns with the food safety of either product, further detailed testing is being done and the recall is an important step to ensure public safety and confidence.

 “We have decided that all our frozen Mixed Berries should be recalled until such time as we receive the results of further laboratory tests.

“We thank our consumers and customers for their understanding during this difficult time and assure them the company is doing its best to investigate the matter, answer consumer enquiries and protect public safety.”

Creative Gourmet berries
Creative Gourmet mixed berries 300g and 500g packets have been recalled

The department said the recalled frozen berry products should not be consumed but it was not recommending Hepatitis A vaccine for people who are well after eating the products.

Immunisation is only recommended if a patient is a contact of a confirmed case of Hepatitis A.

Symptoms of hepatitis A start two to seven weeks after exposure to an infectious person or after eating contaminated food.

A report in Eurosurveillance detailed three multi-country Hepatitis outbreaks in three months had no direct link as they were caused by different sources of exposure.

NSW advice

Dr Vicky Sheppeard, director of New South Wales (NSW) Health’s Communicable Diseases Branch, urged consumers to take heed of the warning not to consume Nanna’s Mixed Berries.

“Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver that can be passed from person to person, or come from food or water contaminated with the virus," ​she said.

“Each year 40 to 80 cases are reported in NSW, however the infection is almost always acquired overseas as hepatitis A is common in most developing countries.”

Sheppeard said at this early stage it is unsure how many people may be affected.

"Given that Nanna’s Mixed Berries is a widely distributed product there is the potential that others may be sick with hepatitis A now, or develop the disease over the coming weeks," ​she said.

“It is important that if people have the symptoms of hepatitis they see their doctor for testing, especially if they have eaten this product in the last two months.

“They should also take steps to not spread the infection by careful hand washing and not handling food or providing personal care to others until they receive advice from their doctor.”​ 

Related topics: Markets, Food safety, East Asia, Oceania, China

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