June 6 the FDA reported it was “finalizing a protocol to test berries for the Hepatitis A virus, and will be testing samples related to the outbreak, including the frozen blend.” The FDA announced May 31 it had begun inspecting and investigating the Townsend operation.
Unusual hepatitis A strain
The CDC reports the strain of hepatitis A linked to the Townsend product is identical to one linked to outbreaks in Europe and Canada.
“This genotype was identified in a 2013 outbreak in Europe linked to frozen berries and another 2012 outbreak in British Columbia related to a frozen berry blend with pomegranate seeds from Egypt,” according to the CDC report.
“Preliminary laboratory studies suggest the outbreak strain of hepatitis A virus is genotype 1B. This strain is rarely seen in the Americas but circulates in the North Africa and Middle East regions.”
The CDC is encouraging anyone who ate the Townsend Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend within the past two weeks to check with their doctors to determine if they should get a hepatitis A vaccine because it can be effective for up to two weeks after exposure. Symptoms may take 50 days to manifest.
Legal action pending
Three lawsuits related to the outbreak have already been filed against Townsend Farms Inc. in Superior Courts in California in Orange County, San Diego County and Los Angeles County.
The Seattle-based Marler Clark law firm filed to form a class action suit for all people who were exposed to the Townsend Farms product and received a vaccine or immune globulin dose as a precaution. Attorney Bill Marler said he believes there are about 25,000 people who fit the proposed class description and should be reimbursed for the shots.
The other suit filed by Marler Clark, as well as one filed by Houston law firm Simon & Luke, involve personal damages for people infected with hepatitis A.