30 Infected with Hepatitis A from Costco Organic Berries

Product recall lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report of a recent outbreak of Hepatitis A that is believed to be associated with frozen mixed berries sold at Costco. At least 30 illnesses have been reported, five of which are in Colorado.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the infected berries were manufactured by Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend and sold at Costco stores nationwide. The organic berry blend consists of cherries, pomegranate seeds, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries. Costo has removed the product from its shelves, however, has not yet issued a formal recall.

The FDA, along with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and several other agencies, is currently investigation the product and its manufacturer, including conducting tests on the berries for the Hepatitis A virus.

Colorado recently issued a safety warning to its residents, telling anyone who has consumed Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend in the past two weeks to contact a medical provider for an immunization as soon as possible. Those without a medical provider are encouraged to contact their local health department.

Fortunately, there is a vaccination for Hepatitis A that can prevent infection if administered within 14 day of exposure. Those who have received the vaccine in the past do not need to be revaccinated. Early symptoms of Hepatitis A begin to manifest within two to six weeks after exposure, and can include mild fever, nausea, fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, and yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice).

Those exhibiting any of these symptoms should not go into work, particularly those employed in the food services or health or child care industries, as the illness is extremely contagious. Hepatitis A is caused by a virus that is spread when a person ingests a minuscule amount of contaminated fecal matter. The virus infects first the liver, causing inflammation, which impairs its function and ultimately causes symptoms.

The virus can be transmitted in several ways: when someone carrying the virus handles food eaten by others without first washing their hands, through close personal contact, drinking contaminated water, or eating raw shellfish from water polluted with sewage. Contaminated food and beverages most commonly spread the virus.

The Hepatitis A virus is relatively stable, able to survive on hands for hours at time and for months at a time of dry surfaces. Although high temperatures (such as boiling) do kill the virus, freezing it does not. Thus, frozen foods are particularly susceptible to spreading the virus.

Just a month ago, for example, in May 2013, there was a large outbreak of Hepatitis A in Nordic European countries again linked to frozen berries. More than 70 people were sickened in that outbreak, nearly all of whom reported consuming frozen berries or smoothies around the time of exposure.

Just a few days after this outbreak, authorities in southeastern Idaho issued a public health warning alerting residents that customers of a local Papa Murphy’s may have been exposed to Hepatitis A. an employee of the pizza chain tested positive for the virus in April 2013, so customers who ate at the Chubbuck establishment on April 19, 20, or 21 may have been exposed.

Hepatitis A lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm will continue to report on any updates and recent developments concerning food contamination and recalls. If you or a loved one was seriously sickened by a contaminated food or product, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to significant compensation through a lawsuit against the manufacturer.