2 hospitalized in WA state from hepatitis A outbreak linked to frozen organic strawberries, says CDC

There have been five hepatitis A outbreaks in Washington state linked to frozen organic strawberries, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Food and Drug Administration recalled Scenic Fruit and California Splendor organic strawberries on Thursday.

The recalled products from Scenic Fruit are:

  • Simply Nature, Organic Strawberries, Best By 06/14/2024
  • Vital Choice, Organic Strawberries, BEST BY 05/20/2024
  • Kirkland Signature, Organic Strawberries, Best If Used By 10/08/2024
  • Made With, Organic Strawberries, Best Before 11/20/2024
  • PCC Community Markets, Organic Strawberries, Best By 29/10/2024
  • Trader Joe’s, Organic Tropical Fruit Blend with the following Best By dates: 04/25/24; 05/12/24; 05/23/24; 05/30/24; 06/07/24

Scenic Fruit has supplied these recalled strawberries to Costco, Aldi, KeHE, Vital Choice Seafood, and PCC Community Markets in specific states, and to Trader Joe’s nationwide.

The recalled product from California Splendor is the Kirkland Signature 4-lb. bag Frozen Organic Whole Strawberries.

California Splendor has supplied Costco stores in Los Angeles and Hawaii, and two San Diego business centers.

Hepatitis A illnesses linked to these strawberries started in Washington around November 24, 2022, to December 27, 2022, said the CDC.

Bill Marler, a food safety attorney, said the people most susceptible are those older than 30 because, in 1995, the United States started recommending the hepatitis A vaccine for kids 12 to 23 months old.

“And the two ways people get it is ill food service workers, which has been an ongoing problem,” said Marler. “And I’ve been trying to get food service workers vaccinated for 20 years but also imported fresh fruits and vegetables and that don’t wind up getting washed.”

Marler said there have been probably 10 hepatitis A outbreaks linked to strawberries in the U.S. in the last 20 years. He also said that hepatitis A has been going around for other reasons.

“The fact that there’s been an ongoing nationwide hepatitis A outbreak in the homeless population and people who, you know, are addicted to drugs,” said Marler. “That’s been going on for several years. That is, you know, impacted tens of thousands of people and killed nearly 500.”

The FDA said that hepatitis A illness usually shows up 15 to 50 days after eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Symptoms of hepatitis A virus infection include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, jaundice, dark urine, and pale stool. In some instances, particularly in children under the age of six, hepatitis A infection may be asymptomatic.

So far, two people have been hospitalized and no deaths have been reported.

“If you have eaten these recalled frozen organic strawberries within the last 14 days and are not vaccinated against hepatitis A, contact your local health department or health care provider to discuss postexposure prophylaxis, a hepatitis A vaccine, or immune globulin. Getting postexposure prophylaxis within 14 days of exposure can help prevent illness,” said the CDC.

Those vaccinated are usually immune and will not get sick even if the recalled strawberries were eaten, said the Washington state Department of Health.

Marler said people who don’t have the vaccine should really think about getting it to protect themselves.

“It’s been around for, you know, 25 years,” said Marler. “It’s very safe and it works.”