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What's On Your Food? Hepatitis A Berry Recall

Megan Hayes | News Editor

Over the years, there have been many food recalls, for a variety of reasons such as contamination, unsafe origins, workplace or factory issues, or updated health risks. Often, this is not looked at as a very serious issue, as many of us have not experienced an issue like this, and when it has happened, the health risk has not been serious. Costco, Trader Joe’s and Aldi, all major grocery chains, have issued a recall as of March 17th of 2023 for MadeWith Co.’s Frozen Berries for Hepatitis A contamination. Immediately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention both launched an investigation into the retailers, warehouses and suppliers for the products after five people were infected and two were hospitalized. Following this recall, more brands were targeted and removed from shelves for an “abundance of caution”: Kirkland, SimplyNature, Trader Joe’s Tropical Fruit Blend, and more similar frozen fruit brands.

Last year, a strain of Hepatitis A caused an outbreak of illnesses within the United States, and was traced back to a farm in Mexico and was originated to have traveled on fresh grown strawberries that were sold to various retailers across the US, but had less of an outbreak so it was not widely publicized. The strain of Hepatitis A that caused the infection this year is genetically identical to the strain of the outbreak last year, which raises some speculation on how these viruses keep ending up on fruit, and why this is still being sold for human consumption. In order for something to be contaminated by the Hepatitis A virus strain, the food must be in contact with human stool (feces) that contain the virus. Often, it is spread onto food by use of contaminated water in the irrigation process or by workers with unwashed hands, and this can be prevalent in jurisdictions not under scrutiny by the US Food and Drug Administration, and it is relatively uncommon for it to occur in the United States.

Symptoms of illness caused by Hepatitis A can occur 15 to 50 days after ingestion of the contaminated food, and can include fever, stomach pain, vomiting and nausea, yellowed eyes or skin, abnormally dark urine or abnormally light stools, loss of appetite.The infection targets the liver, and will then affect all of the functions that the liver works in metabolizing drugs, processing and balancing blood, and cleansing the system of toxins. In children younger than 6, there may be no symptoms of infection. Additionally, Hepatitis A is very resistant to harsh conditions, so the best way to protect yourself from the virus that can persist through hand washing and both freezing and boiling temperatures is to get the Hepatitis A vaccine (which has multiple rounds of shots, but can prevent a possibly debilitating illness). Another way is to avoid non-packaged fruit with unknown origins, avoid fruit washed with uncontaminated water, and of course, stay up to date on recalls and throw out all recalled food immediately.


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