Food safety regulators in the United States and Canada are investigating a Hepatitis A outbreak potentially linked to tainted organic strawberries that has sickened 17 and 10 people in their respective countries, the agencies said.
Fifteen illnesses were reported in California, and one each in Minnesota and North Dakota, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said. Twelve of the sick people were hospitalised, the FDA said without elaborating.
The produce, which was distributed nationwide, was sold under the brand name FreshKampo or HEB between March 5 and April 25, the FDA said in a statement late Saturday.
“People who purchased the fresh strawberries and then froze those strawberries for later consumption should not eat them. They should be thrown away,” it said.
The Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said they were investigating cases in the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The imported organic strawberries were bought between March 5 and 9 and are no longer available for purchase in Canada, they said.
“Based on investigation findings to date, consumption of imported fresh organic strawberries is the likely source of the outbreak,” the agencies said in a statement.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV).
The virus is found in the stool and blood of people who are infected and is very contagious.
“It is spread when someone unknowingly ingests the virus — even in microscopic amounts — through close personal contact with an infected person or through eating contaminated food or drink,” advised the CDC.