Regulators in the US and Canada are investigating an outbreak of hepatitis that may be linked to fresh organic strawberries.
In a joint weekend statement, the US Food and Drug Administration and Canada’s Public Health Agency said the diseases occurred in Minnesota, California and Canada when people consumed Freshcampo and HEB brands of strawberries.
The agencies said the strawberries were bought between March 5 and April 25. They were sold at various US retailers, including Aldi, Kroger, Safeway, Walmart and Trader Joe’s. In Canada, affected strawberries were sold at co-op stores in Alberta and Saskatchewan between March 5–9.
Potentially affected strawberries are past their shelf life, but health officials say consumers who bought them and froze them to eat later should throw them away.
The FDA said 17 illnesses and 12 hospitalizations were reported in the US. Ten cases and four hospitalizations have been reported in Canada.
Mexico-based Freshcampo, which grows strawberries, said in a statement Sunday that it is working with regulators to determine how the problem occurred. Freshcampo said containers of potentially affected strawberries would have “Product of Mexico” or “Distributed by Meridian Foods” on the label.
Texas grocer HEB said in a statement on its website that it has not received or sold organic strawberries from the supplier since April 16. HEB said those who still have strawberries should throw them away or return them to the store where they were purchased. ,
Hepatitis A is a virus that can cause liver disease and, in rare cases, liver failure and death. Illness usually occurs within 15 to 50 days after eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Symptoms include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and jaundice.
The FDA said consumers who have eaten potentially affected berries in the past two weeks and have not been vaccinated against hepatitis A should consult a physician immediately.