Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Berries:  Litigation Ongoing in Townsend Farm Hepatitis A Outbreak Linked to Turkish Pomegranate Arils

In 2013, there was a major outbreak of 165 confirmed cases of Hepatitis A.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) linked to illnesses to purchases made at Costco retail outlets, and eventually to the Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant berry blend. An intensive trace-back effort finally identified that the ingredient in the berry blend, pomegranate arils, were the likely source.  The arils has been procured from the Turkish company, Goknur, and imported and shipped frozen to the Townsend Farms facility via a number of U.S. intermediaries.  The arils where then were incorporated into the berry blend.

Costco retail stores immediately issued a recall of the product.

The 165 confirmed victims (and there were likely many, many more who went undiagnosed), came from 10 states. The victims ranged in age form one-year old to 84 years old, with just over half of the victims aged 40-64.

Strain of Hepatitis A Endemic to North Africa and the Middle East

The CDC performed additional testing on the 117 specimens, identifying the strain as genotype 1B.  This genotype is rarely found in North America, but was also identified in a major outbreak of Hepatitis A in British Columbia in 2012 which, ironically was also linked to pomegranate arils in a frozen berry blend.  In 2013, frozen berries were the source of a major Hepatitis A outbreak of genotype 1B Hepatitis A in Europe.

While still relatively contained in the United States, with children being vaccinated with regularity, Hepatitis A is much more common in North Africa, the Middle East, and Turkey.  The seroprevalence (number of people who test positive) of Hepatitis A in several major Iranian cities, including the capitol, runs from 85 to 99%. And in Turkey and Iraq, some population groups have a near 95% seroprevalence.  In parts of Yemen the seroprevalence is at near 87%, while in many rural areas in Egypt the prevalence of HAV reaches to 100%

For more information about the Townsend Farm Hepatitis A Outbreak, Hepatitis A litigation, or to talk to a Hepatitis A lawyer, call 1-888-335-4901.