▶️ US ties hepatitis cases to strawberries sold at major chains

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U.S. and Canadian regulators are investigating a hepatitis outbreak that may be linked to fresh organic strawberries. The strawberries were sold at multiple chains including Walmart, Safeway, Trader Joe’s and WinCo. While they are past their shelf life, they may be in people’s freezers.

In a joint weekend statement, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Public Health Agency of Canada say at least 27 illnesses in Minnesota, California and Canada occurred after people ate FreshKampo and H-E-B brand strawberries.

The strawberries were purchased between March 5 and April 25 at various U.S. retailers. The FDA says consumers who froze them to eat later should throw them away.

There have been 17 illnesses and 12 hospitalizations reported in the U.S., the FDA said. Ten cases and four hospitalizations have been reported in Canada.

Here is the full press release from the FDA, including where the potentially tainted strawberries were sold.

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The FDA, along with CDC, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, state, and local partners are investigating a multistate outbreak of hepatitis A infections in the United States and Canada potentially linked to fresh organic strawberries branded as FreshKampo and HEB, purchased between March 5, 2022, and April 25, 2022.

Currently, the potentially affected FreshKampo and HEB products are past shelf life. People who purchased FreshKampo and HEB fresh organic strawberries between March 5, 2022, and April 25, 2022, and then froze those strawberries for later consumption should not eat them. These products were sold at the following retailers, including, but not limited to:

  • Aldi
  • HEB
  • Kroger
  • Safeway
  • Sprouts Farmers Market
  • Trader Joe’s
  • Walmart
  • Weis Markets
  • WinCo Foods

If you are unsure of what brand you purchased, when you purchased your strawberries, or where you purchased them from prior to freezing them, the strawberries should be thrown away.

Epidemiologic and traceback data show that fresh organic strawberries  sold as FreshKampo and HEB brands that were purchased between March 5, 2022, and April 25, 2022, are a likely cause of illness in this outbreak. The traceback investigations show that cases in California, Minnesota, and Canada report having purchased fresh organic strawberries branded as FreshKampo or HEB prior to becoming ill. Illness onset dates range from March 28 – April 30, 2022.

As this investigation is ongoing, additional products may be included. More information will be provided in this advisory as it becomes available.

Recommendation 

Consumers, restaurants, and retailers should not sell, serve, or eat any fresh organic strawberries branded as FreshKampo or HEB if purchased between March 5, 2022, and April 25, 2022. People who purchased the fresh strawberries and then froze those strawberries for later consumption should not eat them. They should be thrown away. Currently, the potentially affected product is past its shelf life. If you are unsure of what brand you purchased, when you purchased your strawberries, or where you purchased them from prior to freezing them, the strawberries should be thrown away.

If consumers purchased fresh organic strawberries branded as FreshKampo or HEB between March 5, 2022, and April 25, 2022, ate those berries in the last two weeks, and have not been vaccinated against hepatitis A, they should immediately consult with their healthcare professional to determine whether post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is needed. PEP is recommended for unvaccinated people who have been exposed to hepatitis A virus in the last two weeks because vaccination can prevent a hepatitis A infection if given within 14 days of exposure. Those with evidence of previous hepatitis A vaccination or previous hepatitis A infection do not require PEP.

Contact your healthcare provider if you think you may have symptoms of a hepatitis A infection after eating these fresh organic strawberries, or if you believe that you have eaten these strawberries in the last two weeks.

The Associated Press and Travis Pittman contributed to this report.

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