(UPDATED Nov. 21) Federal health and regulatory agencies are investigating Hepatitis A cases in three states that are “potentially linked” to fresh blackberries bought at Fresh Thyme Farmers Markets stores in September.
Six of the 11 people who’ve been diagnosed have been hospitalized, according to the Food and Drug Administration, which is investigating the outbreak with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A Nov. 20 notice from the FDA said hepatitis A illnesses in Indiana, Nebraska and Wisconsin are potentially linked to fresh conventionally-grown blackberries. Patients told FDA investigators they bought and consumed the berries from Fresh Thyme Farmers Markets in those three states.
The blackberries came from a distribution center that served 11 states, and the FDA is working with “federal and state partners to obtain additional information during the traceback investigation,” according to the notice.
Fresh Thyme released a statement that there is no indication the berries were contaminated by in-store handling and only conventional blackberries sold from Sept. 9-30 are involved.
“We are working with these agencies (FDA and CDC) to identify our suppliers and isolate the source of this contamination,” according to the retailer’s statement. “Fresh Thyme takes the health and safety of our customers and our team members very seriously. Fresh Thyme Farmers Market has a stringent process for ensuring compliance to all local, state and federal health and hygiene regulations.”
The illnesses were reported from Oct. 15-Nov. 5, according to the CDC.
The distribution center ships fresh berries to Fresh Thyme stores in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
No brand names or country of origin have been released.
“A single, common supplier of fresh blackberries has not been identified,” according to a CDC report on the investigation.
The CDC reports that all patients said they ate blackberries two to seven weeks before becoming ill, and nine identified Fresh Thyme stores as the purchase location.
The FDA is advising consumers not to eat fresh blackberries purchased from the retailer in those states from Sept. 9-30.
Consumers who ate the blackberries (in the last two weeks) from those locations in that timeframe and haven’t been vaccinated for the hepatitis A virus should visit their healthcare providers, according to the notice. That includes consuming blackberries that have been frozen.
“Contact your healthcare provider if you think you may have become ill from eating these blackberries, or if you believe that you have eaten these berries in the last two weeks, according to the FDA notice.