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What you need to know about the frozen berry Hepatitis A outbreak


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Canadians have grown accustomed to hearing about food recalls initiated because of fears over salmonella, E. coli or other bacterial contamination. But Hepatitis A seemed an unlikely threat until late last week, when Nature’s Touch Frozen Foods, in collaboration with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, launched a recall of its Organic Berry Cherry Blend frozen fruit because of links to an illness outbreak. More than a dozen Canadians have been infected – including five that have been hospitalized – with Hepatitis A linked to the outbreak. Many of those people had consumed the organic berries sold at Costco, which is now providing free vaccinations to anyone affected. And the Public Health Agency of Canada is warning anyone still holding onto the frozen fruit to dispose of it in a plastic bag.

How does this happen?


The product recall was triggered by the findings of a Canadian Food Inspection Agency investigation into reports of food-borne illness. As of Tuesday, 13 illnesses have been reported in Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador. The individuals became sick in February and March. Just over half of the illnesses involve men and their average age is 41. The Public Health Agency of Canada says it is working with federal and provincial health officials to continue the investigation and that more recalls are possible, depending on what they find.

Hepatitis A is a serious liver disease caused by the Hepatitis A virus. While some people are asymptomatic, others will experience fatigue, nausea, vomiting, jaundice, fever, loss of appetite and other symptoms. The disease rarely causes death and while there is no treatment, most people will recover after the disease runs its course, according to the Canadian Liver Foundation.

Nature’s Touch says the fruit involved in the recall were sourced from Chile, Serbia, Bulgaria and Turkey.

Contaminated produce

Although many of us automatically think of undercooked hamburger or pink chicken, the culprit in most food-borne illness outbreaks is fresh produce. A 2013 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that produce is linked to 46 per cent of food-borne illnesses, more than any other category.

It’s unclear how the fruit may have been contaminated with the Hepatitis A virus. But food safety expert Rick Holley, distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Manitoba, said there are likely only a few possibilities – all of them unpleasant to think about.

Hepatitis is only passed between humans and most often through the fecal-oral route. It’s possible that fruit pickers infected with Hepatitis A defecated in fields, which led to the fruit becoming contaminated, or made other hygienic mistakes, like not washing their hands before touching fruit. Fecal matter could also have gotten into the water supply, leading to contamination of the fruit.

“You hear horror stories, even in Canada, of fields in the summer,” Holley said.

Whatever the cause, it’s clear that a major lapse in good agricultural practice occurred, Holley said.

Better reporting

Canada doesn’t have a national surveillance system to track food-borne illnesses in real-time. Instead, a local health unit may report an illness to the provincial health authority, which can then communicate with federal officials. It’s a clunky system that can lead to lengthy delays and allow problems to go undetected. The absence of a national reporting system also means Canadians can remain in the dark about the extent of food-borne illness outbreaks across the country.

Buying local won’t solve the problem

Increasingly, local food is seen as the answer to corporately farmed Big Food and the problems associated with it, like outbreaks of Hepatitis A linked to contaminated berries and cherries. Holley said the same problems found on industrial farms in South America can – and do – happen close to home. The only way to prevent these problems is to ensure the water supply is safe and that employees are properly educated and trained about safety practices.

Canada has plenty of rules and regulations around safe agricultural practices, and makes sure other countries abide by the same or similar practices before permitting their products to enter this country. But Holley says that problems can still arise, often because of monetary pressures. For instance, education and training programs can take a substantial investment in time and money. But in order to reduce the number of food-borne outbreaks like the one Canada is currently facing, governments must exert more pressure on producers to follow the rules to the letter.

“The emphasis has got to constantly be on education and training, both of the producers and the people who work for the producers,” Holley said. “Government has a role to play there. They set the standards. Certainly, [they] are responsible for compliance.”



Just thought i share this news. 


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They laughed when I told them I don't eat fruits or veggies.  I'll get hepatitis the natural way through an abundance of coitus thank you very much.


9 hours ago, Heretic said:

What if you grow your own?

Hepatitis strain?  I suppose it's feasible...

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22 hours ago, surtur said:

Pooping in the fields was the last thing I would have thought of as to how it got contaminated. 

It's actually a common source.  A few months ago it was cilantro....as the availability of toilets is scarce out in the fields (in Mexico), this is how things unfold.  Gross.  And I'd been buying loads of cilantro prior to the announcement...washing off what I thought was dirt from the fields.  Cringebarf.


All the more reason to support local produce....at least there are standards in place that would eliminate some of this crap.  :)

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