Media Update - Hepatitis A linked to Frozen Berries - 25 March 2015 - 11am

This page provides a Media Update - Hepatitis A linked to Frozen Berries as at 25 March 2015 - 11am

Page last updated: 25 March 2015

PDF printable version of Media Update - Hepatitis A linked to Frozen Berries - 25 March 2015 - 11am (PDF 108 KB)

Issue:

Consumption of Nanna’s brand frozen mixed berries has been linked to cases of Hepatitis A in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, the ACT and South Australia. The parent company, Patties Foods, initiated a nationwide voluntary recall on Friday 13 February and subsequent precautionary recall on Sunday of Creative Gourmet Mixed Berries 300g and 500g packs and on Monday of Nanna’s brand frozen raspberries 1 kg, which are not associated with illness but are packed in the same facilities.

Epidemiology

As at 11:00 on 25 March 2015, there are 28 cases that meet the reporting case definition:

  • 13 in QLD
  • 8 in NSW
  • 3 in Vic
  • 2 in WA
  • 1 in ACT
  • 1 in SA

All 28 cases have reported eating Nanna’s frozen mixed berries during their period of acquisition (15-50 days prior to the onset of symptoms). No other common exposure has been determined. This strong epidemiological association is further strengthened by genotyping.

The risk of contracting hepatitis A from eating frozen berries is estimated to be very low noting there have been only 28 cases to date despite berries being a commonly consumed food.

This is an ongoing epidemiological investigation and all possible exposures are being explored.

Hepatitis A Surveillance

There have now been 72 cases of hepatitis A in Australia this year. This time last year there were 84 cases.

Food Recalls

Four products have been recalled.

  • Nanna's Mixed Berries 1kg pack, with a best before date up to and including 22/11/16.
  • Nanna's Raspberries 1kg pack, with a best before date up to and including 15/09/16.
  • Creative Gourmet's Mixed Berries 300g pack, with a best before date up to and including 10/12/17.
  • Creative Gourmet's Mixed Berries 500g pack, with a best before date up to and including 06/10/17.

Only the Nanna's Mixed Berries product has been epidemiologically associated with the outbreak. The other products have been recalled as a precaution.

The product is packed in China, containing raspberries, strawberries and blackberries grown there, and blueberries. The blueberries in the product were initially thought to have come from Chile, however, the Department of Health is now advised by the company that they were sourced from Canada.

Food Safety

As a result of this potential link between the berries and the Hepatitis A outbreak, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has provided interim advice upgrading the recalled suspect frozen berries to “medium risk” following a request by the Department of Agriculture to review the risk status.

100 per cent of consignments from these facilities are now subject to testing at the border.

Screening now applies to all frozen berry consignments from the facilities in China linked to the Australian Hepatitis A outbreak, which have been held pending further testing. The new requirements include mandatory E. Coli and hepatitis A virus testing of samples from all consignments of product sourced from the facilities in China linked to the Australian hepatitis A outbreak.

New testing arrangements for - imported frozen, ready to eat berries were introduced by the Department of Agriculture on 16 March. These arrangements will apply at the surveillance rate to consignments of berries imported from factories not associated with the recent Hepatitis A incident.

A sample of frozen ready-to-eat berries from selected consignments of these other sources will be subject to testing for E. Coli as an indicator of processing hygiene.

An Australia based company, Matilda’s, announced in March 2015 that it will be launching commercial frozen berry products. All food imported or produced in Australia must meet the same food safety standards.

Actions by Government Agencies

The national health response is being coordinated by the Australian Government Department of Health which is working closely with all Australian health authorities, the Department of Agriculture, Food Standards Australia New Zealand and relevant agencies.

The Department of Health activated its National Incident Room (NIR) on 17 February 2015 to coordinate concurrent strands of activity across the portfolios. Most issues have been addressed and from close of business on Tuesday 24 March 2015, the NIR will be deactivated. However, the ongoing outbreak investigation and response will continue.

Information for consumers:

Anyone who has eaten the recalled frozen berries and feels unwell should consult their GP.

Information for patients, consumers and GPs can be found at The Department of Health website (www.health.gov.au) with a link on the Home Page to Hepatitis A.

Media contact: Kay McNiece, National Incident Room, Department of Health, 0412 132 585