The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in May that it is investigating a multistate salmonella outbreak that may be tied to recalled Jif peanut butter products. Now, another potential foodborne illness outbreak is leading to concerns for some shoppers.
VERIFY viewer Amanda texted the team to ask if strawberries have been linked to Hepatitis A cases. Google Trends data show that others are also searching for information about a potential link between organic strawberries and a recent outbreak of the virus.
Have some brands of organic strawberries been linked to a Hepatitis A outbreak?
Yes, some brands of organic strawberries have been linked to a Hepatitis A outbreak. The FDA says people who purchased organic strawberries branded as FreshKampo and HEB from March 5-April 25, 2022, and then froze them, should throw them away.
WHAT WE FOUND
Fresh organic strawberries sold as FreshKampo and HEB brands, and purchased between March 5-April 25, are a “likely cause of illness” in a multistate Hepatitis A outbreak, the FDA announced. The agency is investigating the outbreak with the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and state and local partners.
Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the highly contagious Hepatitis A virus (HAV). The virus is spread when someone unknowingly ingests it through contact with an infected person or by eating contaminated food or drink, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“The traceback investigations show that [Hepatitis A] cases in California, Minnesota, and Canada report having purchased fresh organic strawberries branded as FreshKampo or HEB prior to becoming ill. Illness onset dates range from March 28 – April 30, 2022,” the FDA wrote in its announcement of the investigation.
There have been a total of 17 U.S. cases reported, with 15 of those in California, one in Minnesota and one in North Dakota. Twelve people have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported. The last illness onset was reported on April 30.
The strawberries that are potentially impacted were branded as FreshKampo and HEB, and sold at Aldi, HEB, Kroger, Safeway, Sprouts Farmers Market, Trader Joe’s, Walmart, Weis Markets and WinCo Foods.
According to the FDA, the strawberries are past their shelf life, but anyone who purchased them from March 5-April 25, 2022, and then froze them, should not eat them.
Urban Remedy, a food and drink company, is also recalling its Organic Revitalizing Tea Tonic Strawberry Hibiscus Rose, with a lot number of 1232 and best-by date of July 17, 2022, for potential Hepatitis A contamination. The 12-ounce product was sold at stores in two dozen U.S. states from May 17-29, 2022. No illnesses have been reported in connection with the tea.
Those who purchased tea with the affected lot number should throw it away or return it for full credit, Urban Remedy CEO Paul Coletta said.
The Public Health Agency of Canada is also investigating a Hepatitis A outbreak likely linked to fresh organic strawberries. There have been 10 confirmed cases in the country in two provinces, and four people have been hospitalized. People became ill between early-to-mid April 2022, the public health agency said.
FreshKampo, a strawberry supplier, confirmed in a statement that the potentially affected strawberries are “out-of-season and no longer being shipped to the marketplace.” The company said it is working with the FDA to gather information that will aid in the investigation to “trace the product and determine where the problem may have occurred.”
HEB, a grocery store chain in Texas, said on May 29 that “all strawberries sold at HEB are safe,” and no illnesses from strawberries related to the FDA investigation have been reported at HEB or in Texas. The chain said it has not received or sold organic strawberries from FreshKampo since April 16.
Those who are unsure of what brand of strawberries they purchased or when they purchased them prior to freezing should throw them away.
If a person who isn’t vaccinated against Hepatitis A purchased the strawberries from March 5-April 25 and ate them in the last week, they should consult with their health care provider to determine whether post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is needed, according to the FDA.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the two-dose Hepatitis A vaccine for all children aged 12-23 months. Children should get the first dose when they are 1 followed by the second dose six months later. The public health agency says children and adolescents aged 2 to 18 who were not previously vaccinated for Hepatitis A should get the vaccine.
The vaccine is also recommended for people at high risk of developing Hepatitis A, including men who have sex with men, people with HIV or chronic liver disease, people experiencing homelessness, and people who have an occupational risk for infection, the CDC says.
Hepatitis A symptoms typically don’t appear until a person has had the virus for a few weeks, and not everyone with the virus develops symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms can include fatigue, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain or discomfort, clay-colored bowel movements, dark urine, yellowing of the skin and white of your eyes, and intense itching, among others.