The FDA is warning about a potential link between some organic strawberries and a hepatitis A outbreak.
Why it matters
Hepatitis A can make you sick, especially if you’re not vaccinated against it.
Check your freezer for the (now expired) organic strawberries sold at Walmart, Sprouts, Kroger and other popular stores.
People who purchased fresh H-E-B and FreshKampo organic strawberries between March 5 and April 25 shouldn’t eat them, the US Food and Drug Administration warned on Saturday.
The FDA, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Canadian health agencies are investigating a multistate outbreak of hepatitis A which is believed to be linked to the strawberries. There have been at least 17 cases of hepatitis A in the US linked to the outbreak, per the FDA, and 12 hospitalizations. The last person to become ill did so on April 30. In Canada, at least 10 cases have been reported.
The strawberries were sold at stores including Walmart, Trader Joe’s, Kroger, Aldi and Safeway.
Though the strawberries would be rotten or expired by now, some people may have put them in the freezer for later use. If you have frozen strawberries and are unsure of the brand, when you bought them or whether your strawberries are included in the FDA’s warning, you should throw them out, the agency said.
Here’s what to know.
What is hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver, which is responsible for filtering blood and other important functions, caused by the hepatitis A virus. While most people recover completely (and many people in the US are vaccinated against it), symptoms can last weeks to months and can cause more serious illness in some people.
Which strawberries are affected?
Fresh, organic H-E-B and FreshKampo strawberries purchased between March 5 and April 25 shouldn’t be eaten, per the FDA. Stores that sold them include (but aren’t limited to):
AldiH-E-BKrogerSafewaySprouts Farmers MarketTrader Joe’sWalmartWeis MarketsWinCo Foods
All the investigated strawberries would be past their shelf life and no longer on store shelves. In a statement, FreshKampo said the strawberries included (which are no longer being shipped to the marketplace) would have had a label that said “Distributed by Meridian Fruits” on the plastic. H-E-B said in a statement that it has not received or sold organic strawberries from the supplier under investigation since April 16.
If you purchased the possibly affected strawberries and became sick within the last two weeks – and you haven’t been vaccinated against hepatitis A – you should immediately call your doctor or a health clinic, per the FDA.
Postexposure prophylaxis might be given within two weeks of exposure to hepatitis A, but it’s only recommended for people who aren’t vaccinated or those who haven’t previously been infected with hepatitis A, the FDA said. (The hepatitis A vaccine is one example of PEP.)
The potentially affected strawberries are now past their shelf life, the FDA said, but make note of the agency’s warning if you freeze fruits.
Is hepatitis A contagious? Is it curable?
According to the CDC, it’s very contagious, found in the blood or stool of people who are infected, and it spreads either through close contact or through contaminated foods or drinks. US outbreaks in the past have included contaminated frozen strawberries (in 2016) and scallops. Illness usually occurs within 15 to 50 days after eating contaminated food, according to the FDA.
Most people with hepatitis A don’t have a prolonged illness, but symptoms can last up to two months and include headache, fatigue, nausea, stomach pain and jaundice. Jaundice causes the skin or eyes to take on a yellow color, and it can also cause dark urine or light-colored stool.
Unlike other types of hepatitis (like hepatitis C), hepatitis A doesn’t typically cause chronic liver damage, but it can cause serious disease in some, including older adults and people with chronic liver diseases.
A CDC investigation into cases of hepatitis of unknown cause in young children is ongoing and isn’t currently linked to the investigation of organic strawberries or any other foods.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.