Although there have been no reported local cases of acute hepatitis A tied to consumption of frozen berries, the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is working with a Costco store in Novato and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to provide guidance for the public and clinicians on precautions that can be taken.
As of June 3, 34 hepatitis A patients might be linked with consumption of a frozen berry product Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend that was sold through Costco stores in California, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. The product might also be sold at other stores, and an investigation is ongoing.
According to Costco, approximately 3,148 bags of the potentially contaminated berries were sold from the Novato location during the interval of potential contamination, indicated as between mid-February and the end of May. Costco has pulled the product from shelves and is contacting all members who purchased the berries via automated telephone message and letters.
Marin County Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis said public education on the subject is paramount at this juncture. “The risk of contracting acute hepatitis A, even if you’ve ingested this product, is really low, so that is reassuring,” he said.
Willis is issuing the following advice to consumers:
- Do not eat ‘Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend’ and discard any remaining product from freezers.
- Even if some of the product has been eaten without anyone in your home becoming ill, the rest of the product should be discarded
- Hepatitis A vaccination can prevent illness if given within two weeks of exposure to the contaminated product.
- If you have already received the hepatitis A vaccination in the past, you are unlikely to become ill with the disease.
- If you consumed this product in the past two weeks and have never been vaccinated, contact your health care provider to find out if you should be vaccinated.
- If you don’t have a health care provider (usually your doctor), contact the Marin County Immunization Clinic at 415-473-4400.
- Contact a health care provider right away if you develop any of these symptoms:
- Yellow eyes or skin
- Abdominal pain
- Pale stools
- Dark urine
- You can prevent cross-contamination in food preparation areas by thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water. Disinfect countertops, cutting boards and cooking utensils after use.
- Wash your hands thoroughly right after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing, serving or eating food.
For more details on hepatitis A, see the CDPH fact sheet. Additional advice for consumers is available at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Visit https://www.marinhhs.org/ for more information.