(UPDATED, 5:15 p.m.) The number of hepatitis A illnesses potentially linked to fresh conventional (non-organic) blackberries from the grocery store Fresh Thyme Farmers Market has increased.
On Dec. 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their case counts to 16 illnesses, with the most recent illness onset date on Nov. 15. On Nov. 26, the CDC had counted 14 illnesses in the outbreak.
Illnesses in the multi-state outbreak have been reported in Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin, according to a news release.
“Based on the epidemiological information collected in the investigation thus far, ill patients reported consuming fresh conventional blackberries from Fresh Thyme Farmers Market stores in six states: Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin,” the CDC said in the release.
However, the release said traceback information to date shows that these berries came from a distribution center that ships fresh berries to Fresh Thyme Farmers Market stores in 11 states, including Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
“As this investigation continues, the FDA will work with our federal and state partners to obtain additional information during the traceback investigation and will update this advisory as more information becomes available,” the release said.
In the Dec. 3 update, the FDA is urging consumers to not eat any fresh conventional blackberries if purchased between Sept. 9 and Sept. 30 from Fresh Thyme Farmers Market stores in the 11 states receiving berries from the distribution center.Shoppers who purchased the fresh blackberries and then froze those berries for later consumption should not eat these berries and instead throw them away, according to the release.
An official statement from Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, issued Dec. 3, said that the FDA, the CDC, and several state agencies have contacted the chain about the outbreak affecting individuals in six states.
“We are fully cooperating with these agencies on the investigation and are awaiting next steps,” the statement said.
Fresh Thyme Farmers Market said in the statement that there is “no reason to believe that any of the product was contaminated via handling in our stores.”
“In addition, the agencies are only concerned with product purchased between September 9 and September 30; product purchased or consumed outside of these dates are not subject to the investigation,” the chain said in the statement. “We are working with these agencies to identify our suppliers and isolate the source of this contamination,”