Hepatitis A Outbreak Spurs Willamette Valley Fruit Co. To Recall Products

Willamette Valley Fruit Co., based in Oregon, has issued a recall for packages of frozen fruit sold at nationwide retailers Walmart, Costco, and HEB. This action comes in response to an ongoing outbreak of hepatitis A infections, making it the latest company to take such measures. The recall affects select packages of Great Value and Radar Farms frozen fruit containing strawberries grown in Mexico, which have the potential to be contaminated with hepatitis A. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration or FDA posted a recall notice, urging consumers to discard or return the products.

This recall announcement follows a similar move by California-based Wawona Frozen Foods, which recently recalled year-old bags of frozen fruit shipped to Costco stores. The FDA, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health and regulatory officials, has been investigating a multi-state outbreak of infections since November 2022. The outbreak has been linked to frozen organic strawberries imported from specific farms in Baja California, Mexico.

So far, nine people in three states have fallen ill, with three requiring hospitalization. The hepatitis A virus strain involved in this outbreak is genetically identical to the strain responsible for a hepatitis A outbreak in 2022, which resulted in over a dozen hospitalizations, according to the CDC. Although no illnesses have been reported in connection with the recently recalled frozen fruit, consumers are urged to discard or return the products as a precautionary measure.

The affected products include Great Value Sliced Strawberries, Great Value Mixed Fruit, and Great Value Antioxidant Blend packages, distributed to select Walmart stores in over 30 states between January 24, and June 8 this year. The recalled Rader Farms Organic Fresh Start Smoothie Blend packages were distributed to Costco Wholesale stores in Colorado, Texas, California, and Arizona between October 3, 2022, and June 8, 2023. The Rader Farms Organic Berry Trio packages were distributed to HEB stores in Texas between July 18, 2022, and June 8, 2023.

Federal health officials are actively working to identify additional companies that may be affected by the outbreak. The CDC highlights that the contaminated strawberries could be sold to various retailers under different brands. Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease caused by exposure to the hepatitis A virus, according to the FDA. Symptoms typically appear between 15 and 50 days after consuming contaminated food or water and include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, jaundice, dark urine, and pale stool. However, in some cases, children under the age of 6 may not exhibit any symptoms. The infection can last from a few weeks to several months and, in rare instances, can progress to liver failure in individuals with severe pre-existing illnesses or compromised immune systems.

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