Patties testing claims berries were not the source of hep A infections

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Patties testing claims berries were not the source of hep A infections
The Australian food manufacturer whose frozen berries were reportedly at the centre of a hepatitis A outbreak in March has claimed its products were negative for the virus after it conducted testing.

Patties Foods recalled several of its frozen berries lines after its Nanna’s Mixed Berries 1kg product was linked to hepatitis cases through fruit imported from China.

It also extended the recall to other frozen berries under the Nanna’s brand, and frozen berries under the Creative Gourmet brand.

A widespread argument has ensued, ushering calls by politicians​ and some industry groups and the public for reforms to labelling and country of origin standards.

Considering ending recall

Following its testing, Patties insists the results show there was no breakdown in quality on its part. However, the recalled products remain off the market until further notice while the company “evaluates alternative sources of supply​”.

To date, the Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) has advised that 31 hepatitis A cases have been linked epidemiologically. Given the completion of a 50-day incubation period, the risk of further cases emerging is now very low, the department said.

Patties Foods chief executive, Steven Chaur, said the company was working closely with the Department of Agriculture, DHHS and its global suppliers to conclude the investigation.

The company has recently recommenced supply of all its non-recalled Nanna’s and Creative Gourmet berries varieties, other than Mixed Berries, back onto the market under a “positive release​” regime for every batch. Local external laboratory tests for both E.coli and hepatitis A confirm the product negative.

No link found

Extensive microbiological and viral testing conducted by Patties Foods shows no evidence of systemic failure of Patties Foods’ quality assurance programmes​,” Chaur said.

Our microbiological and viral testing does not confirm any link between Nanna’s Mixed Berries and hepatitis A​. 

However, we are guided by the epidemiology provided by the DHHS and accordingly have taken proactive and collaborative measures to ensure public safety.​”

If Nanna’s was in fact the source, Chaur argued, the lack of laboratory findings from the testing his company conducted for the presence of E.coli, coliforms or hepatitis A “indicates there has been no systemic failure”. 

Regardless, Patties Foods has significantly increased protection measures to ensure that any risk is further minimised in future.​”

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