10 June 2013
About 1,200 Canadians, most of whom live in British Columbia and Alberta, bought a product from U.S. Costco stores in West coast states that may be associated with an outbreak of hepatitis A that has made about 80 people ill in several western and southwestern states. The product was not available for sale in Canada.
Hepatitis A is a liver disease that can cause illness ranging from mild and lasting a few weeks to severe and lasting several months.
The product, Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend frozen berry and pomegranate mix, was not sold in Canada, but was sold in the U.S. at Costco stores and also at Harris Teeter stores under the name Harris Teeter Organic Antioxidant Berry Blend (no illnesses have been linked to products bought at Harris Teeter stores). The manufacturer has recalled certain lots of this product.
If you bought the recalled product from a U.S. store and have eaten it, check with your health care professional to discuss hepatitis A and find out if the hepatitis A vaccination to prevent infection may be right for you.
Check your freezer and if you have recalled products in your home, return them to the store or throw them out. Do not eat them.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has been notified of a multistate outbreak in the U.S. of hepatitis A infections that may be associated with Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend frozen berry and pomegranate mix and Harris Teeter Organic Antioxidant Berry Blend. The Agency routinely monitors for hepatitis A infections in Canada and, at this time, has received no reports of hepatitis A in Canada that match the strain in the U.S. Based on an assessment of the current situation, the risk to Canadians in Canada is low at this time.
On June 4, 2013, Townsend Farms, Inc. of Fairview, Oregon, recalled certain lots of its frozen Organic Antioxidant Blend, based on an ongoing investigation into the illnesses.
Costco has reached out to consumers in Canada and the U.S. who bought the recalled product from their U.S. stores to tell them about the potential contamination.
The Agency continues to work with its health and food safety partners in the provinces and the U.S. and to monitor for illness that might be linked to this outbreak.
If you think you have eaten some of the recalled product, consult your health care professional. Most people with hepatitis A recover on their own; however, rarely, some people can develop a more severe infection.
Not everyone infected with hepatitis A has symptoms, so it’s important to check with your health care professional if you think you may have been exposed. Hepatitis A vaccine can be used to prevent hepatitis A infection if given within 14 days of the person being exposed to the virus. Your health care professional will assess whether you should receive the vaccine and to discuss symptoms of hepatitis A.
Early assessment is crucial in preventing illness in someone who has been exposed and also in protecting the health of others. If you’ve been exposed, you may have unknowingly infected close friends or family and they might need to be assessed as well.
Following infection with a hepatitis virus, some people may experience symptoms such as fatigue and jaundice, but many people, especially children younger than six years of age, do not feel ill at all and remain unaware of their infection. If you consumed the recalled product and may have been exposed to hepatitis A, contact your local public health department or health care provider for an assessment.
Besides fatigue and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), hepatitis A symptoms can include:
Infections can occur among people of all ages; however, symptoms are likely to be more severe among the elderly. People with weakened immune systems are also at high risk of developing serious complications.
Since the introduction of hepatitis A vaccine in Canada in 1996, the incidence of this disease has declined and the risk to the general public is low. Hepatitis A is most often spread through contaminated food or water. The virus can be spread by an infected food handler who hasn’t properly washed their hands or through food that has come into contact with contaminated water.
Proper hygiene and safe food handling and preparation practices are key to preventing the spread of all food-borne illnesses, including hepatitis A.
Hepatitis A can also be prevented through vaccination.
Everyone should practice these general food safety precautions at all times.