Hepatitis A outbreak linked to contaminated strawberries in US

Strawberries are facing a PR crisis as US health authorities investigate a Hepatitis A outbreak that may be linked to contaminated batches of the fruit.

The outbreak has seen 17 cases and 12 people hospitalised in the US, while Canada has reported 10 cases and four hospitalised.

The FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, working with the Public Health Agency of Canada and Canadian Food Inspection Agency, has linked the outbreak to fresh, organic strawberries.

Officials have deemed tainted strawberries purchased from brands FreshKamp and HEB in March or April, and buyers have been urged to discard them.

The FDA released an official statement that said: “Currently the potentially affected FreshKampo and HEB products are past shelf life. People who purchased FreshKampo and HEB fresh organic strawberries between March 5, 2022, and April 25, 2022, and then froze those strawberries for later consumption should not eat them.”

The strawberries were sold in Aldi, Kroger, Safeway, Sprouts Farmers Market, Trader Joe’s, Walmart, Weis Markets and WinCo Foods.

According to Sky, FreshKampo, the Mexico-based company that grew the strawberries, said it is working with regulators to figure out the source of the problem.

Strawberries are a common carrier for Hepatitis A. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Hepatitis A, a contagious but treatable virus that infects the liver, is spread through poor sanitation and faecal to oral transmission, according to the UK’s NHS.

Strawberries are common carriers for the infection because they can only be harvested by hand – it’s possible that a farm hand or factory worker may have used the bathroom and not washed their hands properly.

Hepatitis A isn’t “usually serious”, the NHS says, and most people are recover within a couple of months. In rare cases (one in 250 people) it can become life threatening if it causes the liver to stop working all together.

Symptoms include fatigue, muscle pain, high temperature, a loss of appetite, nausea, pain in the upper right part of your stomach, itchy skin, jaundice, dark pee and pale poo.

While the disease is uncommon in the UK and US,  there are groups that the CDC says are more susceptible to infection, including men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs.

To test for hepatitis A people need to visit their doctor and get a blood test. People can be exposed to Hepatitis A and may not show symptoms, but treatment can be given early on to stop the infection. There is a vaccine for hepatitis A.

Once a person heals from hepatitis A they have life-long immunity.