Hepatitis outbreak in US and Canada linked to strawberries

US and Canadian regulators are investigating an outbreak of hepatitis that may be linked to fresh organic strawberries.

In a joint statement over the weekend, the US Food and Drug Administration and the Public Health Agency of Canada said illnesses in Minnesota, California and Canada occurred after people consumed FreshKampo and HEB brand strawberries.

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The agencies said the strawberries were purchased between March 5 and April 25. They were sold at various US retailers, including Aldi, Kroger, Safeway, Walmart and Trader Joe’s. In Canada, the affected strawberries were sold between March 5 and March 9 at Co-op stores in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Potentially affected strawberries have passed their shelf life, but health officials say consumers who bought them and froze them to eat later should throw them away.

In the United States, 17 cases of illness and 12 hospitalizations have been reported, the FDA said. Ten cases and four hospitalizations have been reported in Canada.

Mexico-based FreshKampo, which grows strawberries, said in a statement Sunday that it was working with regulators to determine how the issue arose. FreshKampo said the label on containers of potentially affected strawberries would have said “Product of Mexico” or “Distributed by Meridien Foods.”

In a statement on its website, Texas grocer HEB said it had not received or sold any organic strawberries from the supplier in question since April 16. HEB said anyone who still has 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 of ingesting or consuming contaminated food or water. Symptoms include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and jaundice.

Consumers who have eaten the potentially affected berries within the past two weeks and have not been vaccinated against hepatitis A should seek immediate medical attention, the FDA said.

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