Egyptian Strawberries ‘Thought to be the Source’ of Hepatitis Outbreak in USA
Posted by addisethiopia on August 31, 2016
Three years after the Obama administration allowed Egyptian strawberry producers access to U.S. markets, imported strawberries from Egypt are “thought to be the source” of an outbreak of hepatitis A that has sickened 44 people in Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).
“Frozen Egyptian strawberries used at Tropical Smoothie Café are thought to be the source of this outbreak,” VDH reported. The 44 people infected with the hepatitis A virus “reported consuming a smoothie at Tropical Smoothie Café prior to becoming ill.”
“On August 12, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notified VDH that genetic testing of multiple ill persons showed the illnesses were caused by a strain of hepatitis A that had been associated with past outbreaks due to frozen strawberries from Egypt,” according to an August 26 VDH press release.
spokeswoman told CNSNews.com. “Other restaurants, and firms that supply restaurants, may also have received the frozen strawberries imported from Egypt.
“VDH continues to investigate cases and work with state and federal partners, including the Virginia Department of Agruculture and Consumer Services, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the CDC to identify additional locations where the product may have been distributed.”
Hepatitis A causes inflammation of the liver. Symptoms include jaundice, pain, fever and nausea. VDH noted that 50 percent of those infected by the virus, who range in age from 15 to 68, had to be hospitalized.
A statement issued by Tropical Smoothie Café on August 19th stated that “our cafes and their food handling practices have not been implicated in any way – the health department believes this is a single product issue (strawberries) sourced from Egypt.
“Egyptian strawberries represent a fraction of our overall strawberries purchased and were predominantly distributed to stores in the Virginia market. Today, our strawberries are primarily sourced from Mexico and California,” the statement continued.
“However, in an abundance of caution, we voluntarily pulled all strawberries sourced from Egypt from every café in our system, not only the Virginia cafes. Our primary concern is for the safety and well-being of our guests and crew members and we will continue to cooperate with health authorities.”
Egypt, which is the world’s fourth largest strawberry producer, exports 40 million tons of fresh and frozen strawberries to 30 countries, including the U.S.