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Hepatitis outbreak linked to frozen organic fruit sold at Costco

Canadian officials have linked an ongoing Hepatitis A outbreak to a frozen organic fruit blend of berries and cherries sold exclusively at Costco stores.

Nature’s Touch is recalling its “Organic Berry Cherry Blend” because of the outbreak. Canadian health officials are particularly concerned that consumers may have the product, which has a “Best Before” date of March 15, 2018, in their homes.

As of noon today Costco did not have the recall listed on its website. It is not known if the recalled Nature’s Touch frozen organic fruit was distributed in the United States.

“Recalled products should be thrown out or returned to the store where they were purchased. Food contaminated with Hepatitis A virus may not look or smell spoiled,” according to a recall notice posted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

“This recall was triggered by findings of the CFIA during the investigation into a foodborne illness outbreak.”

The recalled product can be identified by the following label information:
◾Nature’s Touch brand Organic Berry Cherry Blend
◾1.5 kg (3.3 lb)
◾Best Before dates up to and including 2018 MR 15
◾UPC 8 73668 00179 1

Costco stores in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador received the recalled frozen fruit. Distribution dates were not provided in the recall notice.

As of Friday, the Public Health Agency of Canada reported 12 people as confirmed with Hepatitis A. Three people have required hospitalization. There are nine cases in Ontario, two in Quebec and one in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Individuals became sick in February and March of this year. Some of the individuals who became ill have reported eating the recalled product,” the public health agency reported Friday when it warned consumers to not eat the recalled Nature’s Touch frozen organic fruit.

“If you are unsure whether a frozen fruit product you have in your home is part of the food recall warning, do not consume it. Secure the product in a plastic bag, throw it out and wash your hands with warm soapy water.”

Onset of symptoms usually begins 15 to 50 days after exposure to Hepatitis A, according to the recall and public health warning. Hepatitis A can cause inflammation of the liver in some cases.
“Hepatitis A can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. You can get the Hepatitis A virus by eating contaminated food or water or through contact with an infected person’s stool,” the public health agency reported.

“If you suspect you have been exposed to the recalled product, or have symptoms consistent for Hepatitis A, see your health care provider immediately. Vaccination can prevent the onset of symptoms if given within two weeks of exposure.”

Some people infected with Hepatitis A do not develop symptoms, but they can spread the infection to others.

Symptoms include:
◾fever;
◾loss of appetite;
◾stomach cramps;
◾jaundice — yellowing of the skin and eyes;
◾dark urine; and
◾fatigue.

The illness usually lasts one to two weeks. Although severe cases can last several months, most people recover without treatment.