In late 2022, a multistate outbreak of the Hepatitis A Virus (HAV) in frozen organic strawberries struck consumers, hospitalizing 13 of he 18 confirmed patients in Washington State. In Canada, there were also 10 hospitalized patients confirmed to be linked to the same outbreak. Now, once again, Hepatitis A has been linked to frozen strawberries. The same product that caused the string of illnesses last year is again the focal point of an outbreak this year.
According to an update made by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on May 8, 2023, the initial count of seven total illnesses and two hospitalizations has now been changed to nine total illnesses and three hospitalizations. A trace-back investigation has also determined that the tainted frozen strawberries are also from the same growing area as the last outbreak, in Baja California, Mexico. The reported illnesses began on November 22, 2022 and have spanned all the way till March 26, 2023. While this might not be likely in an outbreak linked to fresh strawberries, the fact that this product is frozen means it remains a concern many months after the initial case is identified.
No deaths have been reported, although the CDC is urging consumers to act with an abundance of caution. While many younger and middle-aged Americans are now routinely vaccinated against HAV, the very young and elderly likely are not, making them especially vulnerable to this illness.
According to the reports, two companies (California Splendor and Scenic Fruit) have recalled organic frozen strawberries with expiration dates stretching all the way into 2024. The recalled strawberries were sold under the following brands:
- Simply Nature, Organic Strawberries, Best By 06/14/2024
- Vital Choice, Organic Strawberries, BEST BY 05/20/2024
- Kirkland Signature, Organic Strawberries, Best If Used By 10/08/2024
- Made With, Organic Strawberries, Best Before 11/20/2024
- PCC Community Markets, Organic Strawberries, Best By 29/10/2024
- Trader Joe’s, Organic Tropical Fruit Blend with the following Best By dates: 04/25/24; 05/12/24; 05/23/24; 05/30/24; 06/07/24
Hepatitis A Virus is Not Affected by Freezing: Once Ingested, the Virus Quickly Multiplies and Sickens the Host within Two to Nine Weeks (15 to 50 days).
What is Hepatitis A, and how can it be identified?
Hepatitis A is a contagious infection that resides in your liver, and in rare cases, can cause liver failure. You can become ill with this infection through contaminated food and drink, or after coming in close contact with someone close to you who is sick. It can also take up to fifty days to display symptoms of the illness, making it difficult to discover what caused you to become ill. Thankfully, this illness is completely vaccine-preventable, so if you have the time, it would be prudent to receive the vaccine.
Either way, it is important that if you experience symptoms and have consumed any of these products that you contact your local health provider immediately. According to one food poisoning lawyer: “This illness may not be a serious health issue for the average healthy adult, but for those who are older, immunocompromised, or pregnant, it can be a serious issue. It is important to receive the proper tests and care both for your well-being and so your local Health Department can be alerted, and we can prevent any further cases.”