Officials at South Australia (SA) Health have reiterated calls for consumers to dispose of the Creative Gourmet Frozen Pomegranate Arils 180g food product — which were sold Australia-wide through Coles.
“We urge everyone to double-check freezers and remove any affected products,” said SA Health’s chief medical officer and chief public health officer, Professor Paddy Phillips.
He said that the woman’s death is the only one linked to this recalled product to date.
“The incubation period for hepatitis A is generally 15 to 50 days, so we don’t anticipate further cases because the product was recalled two months ago,” said Professor Phillips.
He added that the fateful case has been referred to the South Australian coroner.
On April 6, New South Wales (NSW) Health identified seven cases of hepatitis A, after all the individuals in question had consumed the imported frozen pomegranate purchased from Coles. The testing identified a unique strain of hepatitis A — genotype 1B.
“This outbreak appears to be linked to imported frozen product. Fresh pomegranate has not been implicated, nor have Australian-grown frozen pomegranate products,” NSW Food Authority CEO Dr Lisa Szabo had said.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) states that the product was imported from Egypt.
“Consumers with this product in their freezers should not consume it,” said Dr Szabo.
Entyce Food Ingredients Pty Ltd, owner of Creative Gourmet, initiated a precautionary recall of the product.
On April 7, SA Health issued a similar advice to its state citizens.
There have been 24 cases of hepatitis A linked to the recalled product, nationally, including two in South Australia.
Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the gut and liver. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fever, jaundice, dark urine, diarrhoea and abdominal pain.
According to ABC, Entyce Food Ingredients said in a statement that it was "deeply saddened" by the death of the woman.
"We offer our deepest condolences to the woman's family," said the company.
"Entyce will work closely with health authorities and the SA coroner to help determine the exact cause of the woman's death and if there was any direct link with the consumption of frozen pomegranate arils and hepatitis A.”
However, the Entyce and Creative Gourmet websites still reflect their earlier recall statement, saying: “All product [sic] tested to date has been cleared and has not revealed a link to Hepatitis A but the health and safety of our consumers is of paramount importance. Recognising any concern that may exist in the community, we are exercising abundant caution by activating this voluntary recall immediately.
“Consumers can be confident that the recalled product Creative Gourmet Frozen Pomegranate Arils 180g is an isolated one and no other Creative Gourmet products are affected.”
They also stated that customers would be able to get a full refund from Coles upon returning the product.
Creative Gourmet products were launched into supermarkets in Australia in 1990. In 2016, it became part of Entyce Food Ingredients Pty Ltd.
Earlier this year, an outbreak of listeria linked to contaminated rockmelon claimed the lives of seven people and a miscarried child, and sickened 13 others in Australia.
The Australian authorities identified the source as Rombola Family Farms in Nericon, southwest NSW.
In end-February, FSANZ coordinated a recall of whole rockmelons and the company ceased production after being notified.
Recalls were also activated in Singapore and Hong Kong.
Recently, SA Health said South Australians who are not vulnerable or at risk of listeriosis can resume consuming rockmelon from South Australian suppliers after all contaminated melons were removed from the local supply chain.
According to SA Health, Australia’s food supply is among the safest in the world. Yet, each year, an estimated 5.4 million Australians contract a foodborne illness.
Most of these cases could have been prevented through good hygiene and safe food handling practices.