With cases of hepatitis A linked to frozen pomegranate arils continuing to be diagnosed, the Food and Drug Administration has banned the import of the edible seeds from Goknur Foodstuffs Import Export Trading in Turkey.
As of July 17, 149 people in eight states had been confirmed to have hepatitis A linked to the imported arils. No deaths have been reported but 65 people have been admitted to hospitals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The first confirmed illnesses of the outbreak began March 31.
The FDA reports that all 149 sick people reported consuming Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend of frozen berries. The Fairview, Ore., company, which also distributes fresh produce, recalled the frozen berry mix June 3.
Townsend distributed the product to Costco stores in a dozen states and to the Harris Teeter grocery store chain in the Northeast. No illnesses have been reported linked to the Organic Antioxidant Blend sold at Harris Teeter stores, according to the CDC.
On June 26, Scenic Fruit Co., of Gresham, Ore., recalled specific lots of its Woodstock Frozen Organic Pomegranate Kernels because they were linked to the outbreak.
“The epidemiological and trace back evidence developed in this investigation supported placement of pomegranate products produced by Goknur on (two import) alerts,” according to the FDA website. “The firm will remain on these import alerts until the FDA has confidence that future shipments will be in compliance.”
The CDC reports the outbreak strain of hepatitis A virus, belonging to genotype 1B, was found in clinical specimens from many of the sick people. That subtype is rarely seen in the Americas but circulates in North Africa and the Middle East, according to the CDC.
“This genotype was identified in a 2013 outbreak of hepatitis A virus infections in Europe linked to frozen berries and a 2012 outbreak in British Columbia related to a frozen berry blend with pomegranate seeds from Egypt. However, there is no evidence at this time that these outbreaks are related to the ongoing U. S. outbreak,” according to the CDC update on July 18.