An increasing number of people are becoming infected with hepatitis A linked to a frozen berry mix marketed by Townsend Farms Inc. as the Food and Drug Administration begins testing the product weeks after an initial public warning May 31.
“FDA is inspecting the processing facilities of Townsend Farms of Fairview, Ore. The FDA has also finalized a protocol to test berries for the Hepatitis A virus (HAV), and is testing samples related to the outbreak,” according to a June 17 update from the agency.
As of June 18, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 118 people sickened in eight states, with 47 admitted to hospitals. Of the 112 sick people interviewed, the CDC said 71% reported eating the berry mix before becoming ill.
The CDC report revealed Townsend distributed the product to Costco stores in a dozen states, but illnesses have only been reported in eight.
Confirmed cases linked to the berries started March 16 and are now reported in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Washington. The berries were also distributed to Costco stores in Alaska, Idaho, Montana and Oregon.
Townsend also supplied the berry mix of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cherries and pomegranate arils to the Harris Teeter grocery store chain in the Northeast, but no illnesses have been reported linked to the Organic Antioxidant Blend sold at Harris Teeter stores, according to the CDC update.
Townsend recalled the product June 3 citing food safety concerns because “pomegranate seeds (in the mixed berries) processed in Turkey may be linked to an illness outbreak outside of the United States.” Both Costco and Harris Teeter pulled the product from stores days before Townsend recalled it, company officials said.
In Oregon, the Jackson County Health Department is warning customers of Evo’s Coffee Lounge, Ashland, that they may have been exposed to Hepatitis A in the coffee shop’s “Radically Free” smoothies served between May 17 and June 12 because the Townsend product was still in use after the recall.