Recall Alert: A Hepatitis-A outbreak has occurred in 5 states as a result of contaminated organic frozen fruit mix sold in Costco stores. The Food and Drug Administration announced this past week that customers should avoid the mix, called Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend.
Although the government has not officially recalled the product, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that 30 illnesses resulted from consuming the frozen berry mix, with 9 people hospitalized. Costco is currently trying to contact anyone who purchased the product since February 2013.
Read on for our scoop on the berry recall, and tips on how you can protect yourself from contaminated food products.
Hepatitis A Outbreak From Costco Berries
The Hepatitis outbreak has affected Costco consumers in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and California. The illness is believed to be linked most closely to the pomegranate seeds contained in the frozen “antioxidant” blend.
The FDA is currently investigating the Townsend Farms facility in Oregon, where the suspect berry mix originated.
Said Bill Gaar, lawyer for Townsend Farms:
We do have very good records, we know where the (pomegranate seeds) came from, we’re looking into who the broker is and we’re sourcing it back up the food chain to get to it.
According to Costco, they are the only chain which distributed the contaminated mix, although the FDA and CDC are investigating whether there were any other buyers.
The company has apparently removed the product from its shelves and is trying to contact customers who purchased the Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend since February 2013.
Not the First Frozen Berry Outbreak of Hepatitis-A
Interestingly, the same genotype of this disease was linked to another hep A outbreak earlier this year and one in 2012. These prior outbreaks were also tied to contaminated frozen berries.
Outbreaks in Europe and British Columbia were thought to result from berry seeds prepared in Turkey and Egypt, while the Townsend Farms seeds originally came from Argentina and Chile.
This widespread sickness is particularly serious, since Hepatitis-A can seriously affect the liver for anywhere to a few weeks to a few months.
The disease is usually communicated through food when a preparer fails to use proper hygiene when washing or packaging food. Hepatitis symptoms commonly show up within 15 to 50 days of exposure, and can include include jaundice, dark urine, abdominal pain, and fatigue.
If you’ve already been vaccinated about hepatitis, you’re not likely to fall ill; additionally, vaccination can prevent Hep-A if administered within 2 weeks of exposure.
How to Protect Yourself from This Outbreak and Others
First of all, if you have bought Costco’s Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend, contact your doctor immediately to get tested for the Hep-A virus and receive a vaccination if necessary.
You should also get in touch with Costco to let them know where and when you bought the product.
Shop smart and remember the following points about product recalls:
1. Research food, household items, etc. before you purchase. SaferProducts.gov is a great resource for keeping up to date on recalled or unsafe products.
2. Stay informed about recalls by signing up for alerts online and providing your current contact information to manufacturers when you buy commonly recalled products like toys and furniture.
3. Let a company know immediately if you suspect the product you’ve bought is dangerous or contaminated. Consumer awareness keeps us all safe!
Do you have any tips for staying on top of product recalls? Ever been a victim of a recalled product that caused you or a loved one harm? Tell us about it in the comments.
If you’d like to submit a complaint about a recalled product, click here to file a report on Scambook.
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