Strawberries likely caused hepatitis A outbreak, FDA says

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Posted at 11:04 AM, May 30, 2022

Packages of FreshKampo and HEB brand strawberries are likely linked to more than a dozen recent cases of hepatitis A in California, federal food regulators said.

The FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, joined by the Public Health Agency of Canada, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and state and local partners, are investigating a multistate outbreak of hepatitis A infections in the U.S. and Canada potentially linked to fresh, organic strawberries with the FreshKampo or HEB labels and purchased between March 5, 2022, and April 25, 2022.

"If you are unsure of what brand you purchased, when you purchased your strawberries or where you purchased them from prior to freezing them, the strawberries should be thrown away," the FDA said in a warning notice.

The strawberries were also sold at HEB, Kroger, Safeway, Sprouts Farmers, Trader Joe's, Weis Markets and WinCo Foods, according to regulators. The FDA has received reports of 17 hepatitis A cases in the U.S. since the strawberries hit store shelves, and a dozen people have been hospitalized. Most of the cases have been in California, but the FDA also reported one case in both Minnesota and North Dakota.

No deaths have been reported, according to the agency. It said the strawberries under investigation "are a likely cause of illness in this outbreak." The FDA's investigation is ongoing, so other products could be linked to hepatitis cases.

HEB said it has not received or sold the strawberries under investigation since April 16. The Texas-based grocer maintained that its strawberries are safe, but said customers should throw away any organic strawberries purchased between March 5 and April 25.

"No illnesses from strawberries related to the FDA investigation have been reported at HEB or in Texas," the company said in a statement Sunday.

FreshKampo is a Mexico-based grower and distributor of fruits and vegetables. The company couldn't be reached for comment Monday.

Hepatitis A is a contagious yet treatable virus that infects the liver, causing it to swell and malfunction. Most people catch the virus from contaminated food or water.

Anyone who has already eaten the harmful strawberries should immediately see a doctor and ask about a hepatitis vaccine, the FDA said.

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