Frozen strawberries recalled as part of Hepatitis A outbreak investigation

(WHSV)
Published: Oct. 31, 2016 at 3:55 PM EDT
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At the end of August, a statewide Hepatitis A scare was linked to frozen strawberries at Tropical Smoothie Cafe restaurants and other locations. Those berries were imported from Egypt.

Throughout nine states, 134 people were infected with the disease due to that outbreak. 52 of those people were hospitalized.

The CDC identified Virginia as the focal point of outbreaks, with other infections occurring in surrounding states.

---THE RECALL---

Now, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigates the outbreak, the International Company for Agricultural Production & Processing (ICAPP) is voluntarily recalling all lots of its frozen strawberries imported into the U.S. since the start of 2016 "out of an abundance of caution."

These frozen strawberries were all distributed to food service establishments - not for retail sale to the public.

Nonetheless, the ICAPP is issuing a public recall to lower any risk to public health from possibly infected berries and to ensure that all recalled berries are recovered. They reiterate that none of their testing has shown any presence of Hepatitis A in samples of their products, nor has third party testing, but they've made the recall decision as a precaution.

According to the ICAPP, they have been engaged with the FDA in its investigation of the outbreak after Hepatitis A was detected in four lots of frozen strawberries exported to the U.S.

---WHAT IS HEPATITIS A?---

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis A virus (HAV). It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Hepatitis A is usually spread when a person ingests fecal matter — even in microscopic amounts — from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the feces of an infected person.

Hepatitis A vaccination can prevent illness if given within two weeks of exposure to a contaminated food. In rare cases, particularly consumers who have a pre-existing severe illness or are immune compromised, Hepatitis A infection can progress to liver failure.

---SYMPTOMS OF HEPATITIS A---

Illness occurs within 15 to 50 days of exposure and in adults includes fatigue, abdominal pain, jaundice, abnormal liver tests, dark urine and pale stool.

---WHAT TO DO IF YOU MAY HAVE EATEN INFECTED BERRIES---

Persons who may have consumed affected product should consult with their health care professional or local health department to determine if a vaccination is appropriate, and consumers with symptoms of Hepatitis A should contact their health care professionals or the local health department immediately.

---WHAT DO RESTAURANTS AND RETAILERS NEED TO DO?---

According to the FDA:

In the event that retailers and/or other food service operators are found to have handled potentially contaminated food in their facilities, they should:

• Wash and sanitize display cases and refrigerators where potentially contaminated products were stored.

• Wash and sanitize cutting boards, surfaces, and utensils used to prepare, serve, or store potentially contaminated products.

• Wash hands with hot water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process.

• Retailers, restaurants, and other food service operators who have processed and packaged any potentially contaminated products need to be concerned about cross contamination of cutting surfaces and utensils through contact with the potentially contaminated products.

---CONTACTING THE ICAPP---

For questions or more information, you can contact ICAPP by email at customerservice@icapp.com.eg or by phone, between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm Cairo local time, at +201-541-1624.