Canadian Authorities on Alert After US Recall of Strawberries Due to Risk of Hepatitis A

By Marnie Cathcart

There are currently no active recalls of strawberries in Canada, but the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said it is in close contact with American authorities following news that the popular berry has been linked to a hepatitis A outbreak in the United States.

The U.S. recall, updated on April 11 at the time of this writing, applies to specific lots of Kirkland brand organic frozen whole strawberries, sold in four-pound bags by Costco in Los Angeles, Hawaii, and in two Costco business centre locations in San Diego.

The recall was first announced by manufacturer California Splendor, Inc., and posted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a public service on March 16, with consumers advised to not consume the fruit and to return it to Costco for a full refund.

The announcement said at the time that Hepatitis A has not been detected in the strawberries but that the company has stopped the production and distribution of the affected product as it and the FDA continue investigations into the cause of the problem.

The April 11 update, posted by the FDA, said the FDA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are working with state and local partners to investigate an outbreak of hepatitis A virus infections after seven people became ill and two individuals were hospitalized after eating the berries.

According to the update, the strawberries originated from certain farms in Baja California, Mexico, and the strain of hepatitis A identified as is genetically identical to the strain that caused an outbreak of hepatitis A infections in 2022in Canada and the United States.

“If an affected product is identified, the agency will work with industry to recall the product as soon as possible,” the spokesperson said.

The CFIA, responsible for food safety investigations and recalls in Canada, said it is monitoring the situation.

In 2022, Canadian and American authorities investigated an outbreak of hepatitis A infections in Alberta and Saskatchewan. At the time, imported FreshKampo brand fresh organic strawberries, sold by co-op stories, were identified as the likely culprit, as many of those who became sick said they had eaten these strawberries prior to becoming ill.

Ten individuals became ill between early and mid-April 2022, aged 10 to 75 years of age. Four ended in hospital. There were no recall warnings associated with that outbreak.

Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. Infections are most commonly spread by eating food or drinking water that contains the virus, according to Health Canada.

Symptoms include “fever, dark urine, loss of appetite, fatigue (tiredness), nausea and vomiting, Stomach cramps or abdominal pain, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes),” the department said.

It noted that these symptoms, which usually last less than two months, may be mild and last just one or two weeks, or severe and last up to nine months, adding that symptoms typically appear 14 to 28 days later but may occur up to 50 days later.

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