Hepatitis A outbreak linked to organic strawberries

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People who bought FreshKampo or HEB brand organic strawberries between March 5 and April 25 and then froze them should throw them away, according to the FDA.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in May that it was investigating an outbreak of salmonella in several states that may be linked to recalled Jif peanut butter products. Now another potential outbreak of foodborne illness is causing concern among some shoppers.

VERIFY viewer Amanda texted the team asking if strawberries had been linked to cases of hepatitis A. Google Trends data shows others are also looking for information on a potential link between organic strawberries and a recent virus outbreak.

THE QUESTION

Have any brands of organic strawberries been linked to an outbreak of hepatitis A?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

Yes, some brands of organic strawberries have been linked to an outbreak of hepatitis A. The FDA advises that people who purchased FreshKampo and HEB brand organic strawberries from March 5 through April 25, 2022 and then froze them should to throw.

WHAT WE FOUND

Fresh organic strawberries sold under the FreshKampo and HEB brands, and purchased between March 5 and April 25, are a “probable cause of illness” in a multi-state hepatitis A outbreak, the FDA has announced. The agency is investigating the outbreak with the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and state and local partners.

Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the highly contagious hepatitis A virus (HAV). The virus spreads when a person unknowingly ingests it through contact with an infected person or by eating contaminated food or drink, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Traceability surveys show that [Hepatitis A] cases in California, Minnesota and Canada report buying FreshKampo or HEB brand fresh organic strawberries before falling ill. Disease onset dates range from March 28 to April 30, 2022,” the FDA wrote in its announcement of the investigation.

A total of 17 cases in the United States have been reported, including 15 in California, one in Minnesota and one in North Dakota. Twelve people were hospitalized, but no deaths were reported. The last outbreak of the disease was reported on April 30.

The potentially affected strawberries carried the FreshKampo and HEB brands and were sold at Aldi, HEB, Kroger, Safeway, Sprouts Farmers Market, Trader Joe’s, Walmart, Weis Markets and WinCo Foods.

According to the FDA, the strawberries are past their shelf life, but anyone who bought them from March 5 to April 25, 2022 and then froze them shouldn’t eat them.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is also investigating an outbreak of hepatitis A likely linked to fresh organic strawberries. There have been 10 confirmed cases in the country in two provinces and four people have been hospitalized. People fell ill between early and mid-April 2022, the public health agency said.

FreshKampo, a strawberry supplier, confirmed in a statement that the potentially affected strawberries are “out of season and no longer being shipped to market.” The company said it is working with the FDA to gather information that will aid in the investigation to “trace the product and determine where the issue may have occurred.”

HEB, a grocery chain in Texas, said on May 29 that “all strawberries sold to HEB are safe” and that no strawberry diseases linked to the FDA investigation have been reported to HEB or the Texas. The chain said it had not received or sold organic strawberries from FreshKampo since April 16.

Those who don’t know what brand of strawberries they bought or when they bought them before freezing should throw them out.

If a person who is not vaccinated against hepatitis A bought strawberries between March 5 and April 25 and ate them last week, they should consult their health care provider to determine if post-treatment prophylaxis exposure (PPE) is required, according to the FDA.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the two-dose hepatitis A vaccine for all children ages 12 to 23 months. Children should receive the first dose when they are 1 year old, followed by the second dose six months later. The public health agency says children and teens aged 2 to 18 who have not been previously vaccinated against hepatitis A should get vaccinated.

The vaccine is also recommended for people at high risk of developing hepatitis A, including men who have sex with men, people with HIV or chronic liver disease, homeless people, and people with an occupational risk of infection, according to the CDC.

Symptoms of hepatitis A usually don’t appear until a person has had the virus for a few weeks, and not everyone with the virus develops symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms may include fatigue, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain or discomfort, clay-colored stools, dark urine, yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, and intense itching, among others.

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