FDA, CDC Investigating Hepatitis A Outbreak Caused by Strawberries

Fresh organic strawberries sold at multiple major retailers linked to multistate hepatitis A outbreak.

Officials with the FDA and CDC are investigating an outbreak of hepatitis A virus believed to be caused by FreshKampo and HEB brand organic strawberries, according to an update from the FDA.1

According to CDC data, there have been 17 reported cases of hepatitis A linked to the strawberries, with infections spread across 3 states and 12 resulting in hospitalizations. Of the reported cases, 15 have been confirmed in California, 1 in North Dakota, and 1 in Minnesota. The first patient was diagnosed on March 28, followed by more patients during April and early May.2

“The traceback investigations show that cases in California, Minnesota, and Canada report having purchased fresh organic strawberries branded as FreshKampo or HEB prior to becoming ill,” the FDA said in a statement. “Illness onset dates range from March 28 to April 30, 2022.”1

In interviews with patients, 77% reported eating fresh organic strawberries in the days before they became ill. Hepatitis A is a contagious liver infection that is spread when an individual ingests the virus, typically through close personal contact with an infected individual or by eating contaminated food or drink. It can be prevented with a vaccine, which is recommended for all children starting at age 1 and adults who are at risk of infection.2

Symptoms of hepatitis A typically appear 2 to 7 weeks after exposure and can include yellow skin or eyes, lack of appetite, upset stomach or stomach pain, nausea, fever, joint pain, diarrhea, and feeling tired. Not all individuals have symptoms and adults are more likely to exhibit symptoms than children, according to the CDC.2

Individuals who purchased FreshKampo and HEB fresh organic strawberries between March 5, 2022, and April 25, 2022, and then froze them for later consumption should not eat them, according to officials. According to the FDA, these include products sold at multiple retailers, including Aldi, HEB, Kroger, Safeway, Sprouts Farmers Market, Trader Joe’s, Walmart, Weis Markets, and WinCo Foods.1

However, in a statement on its website, HEB said none of the strawberries sold at their stores have been linked to the outbreak. According to the press release, HEB has not received or sold organic strawberries from the supplier under investigation since April 16.3

“The fresh organic strawberries potentially affected are out-of-season and are no longer being shipped into the marketplace,” read a statement from FreshKampo. “The company is working with the US Food & Drug Administration to gather information that will aid in its internal investigation to trace the product and determine where the problem may have occurred.”4

REFERENCES

1. Outbreak Investigation of Hepatitis A Virus: Strawberries (May 2022). News release. FDA; May 28, 2022. Accessed June 1, 2022. https://www.fda.gov/food/outbreaks-foodborne-illness/outbreak-investigation-hepatitis-virus-strawberries-may-2022

2. Outbreak of Hepatitis A Virus Infections Potentially Linked to Fresh Organic Strawberries. Food Safety Alert. CDC; reviewed May 31, 2022. Accessed June 1, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/outbreaks/2022/hav-contaminated-food/index.htm

3. Strawberries sold at HEB are safe to consume. News release. HEB; May 29, 2022. Accessed June 1, 2022. https://newsroom.heb.com/strawberries-sold-at-h-e-b-are-safe-to-consume/

4. FreshKampo No Longer Shipping Fresh Organic Strawberries Potentially Linked to May 28 FDA Notice. News release. FreshKampo; May 29, 2022. Accessed June 1, 2022. https://freshkampo.com/en/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/FreshKampo-May-28-Statement.pdf?utm_source=noticy&utm_medium=click&utm_campaign=freshkampo