The United States and Canada have teamed up to investigate a potential link between organic strawberries purchased in March and April and a recent outbreak of hepatitis A in the two countries. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said additional products may be included on its food watch list linked to the outbreak as the investigation continues.
In an announcement Saturday, the FDA said it was working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and state and local partners to investigate “a multi-state outbreak of hepatitis A infections in the United States and Canada potentially linked to FreshKampo and HEB brand fresh organic strawberries.” The FDA added that the investigation is particularly focused on organic strawberries purchased between March 4 and April 25.
The FDA said consumers who purchase FreshKampo and HEB fresh organic strawberries between the specified dates and then store the strawberries in the freezer for later consumption “should not eat them.”
According to the FDA, epidemiological and traceback data indicated that organic strawberries sold by the HEB and FreshKampo brands may have caused the illness during the recent hepatitis A outbreak in California, Minnesota and Canada. “Disease onset dates range from March 28 to April 30, 2022,” the FDA noted.
In the United States, a total of 17 cases of hepatitis A have been recorded, including 15 in California and one case recorded in North Dakota and Minnesota, The Hill reported. There were 12 hospitalizations. Said cases were traced to people who purchased the brands of strawberries in question.
The FDA said additional products may be included in the list of foods to watch as joint investigations continue. The agency is expected to make further announcements in the coming weeks.
PHAC also warned against importing fresh organic strawberries purchased between March 5 and March 9 “at Co-op stores in Alberta and Saskatchewan.” The agency said consumers who purchased organic strawberries on the said dates and do not know where the strawberries came from should discard the food products. In a statement, PHAC said there have been 10 laboratory-confirmed cases of hepatitis A in Saskatchewan and Alberta, with 6 and 4 cases recorded respectively. Four of the patients were hospitalized.
The FDA said the following retailers sell the strawberry brands in question:
- Cabbage growers market
- WinCo Foods
- Trader’s Joe
- Weis Markets
The CDC says hepatitis A “is highly contagious,” warning that people can become infected if they unknowingly ingest the virus “even in microscopic amounts.” On the other hand, the disease is preventable by vaccination.