Public health officials said they were investigating an outbreak of hepatitis A in the United States and Canada that may be linked to organic strawberries.
U.S. health officials said the outbreak most likely came from fresh, organic, FreshKampo and HEB-branded strawberries purchased between March 5 and April 25.
The strawberries were sold at stores such as Aldi, HEB, Kroger, Safeway, Sprouts Farmers Market, Trader Joe’s, Walmart and Weis Markets, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
The strawberries are now out of shelf life, and people who bought them between March 5 and April 25 will have to throw them away, even if they’ve frozen them to eat later, health officials said.
In the United States, the FDA said it had identified 17 cases of hepatitis A linked to the strawberries — 15 in California and one in Minnesota and North Dakota. Twelve people have been taken to hospital, the agency said.
In Canada, health officials said they had confirmed 10 cases — four in Alberta and six in Saskatchewan. Four people have been hospitalized in that country.
According to officials in both countries, there have been no reported deaths related to the strawberries in the United States or Canada.
Hepatitis A is a contagious virus that can cause liver disease. It can be transmitted when food is consumed after it has been handled by someone who has not adhered to proper hand hygiene, the FDA said.
Symptoms usually develop 15 to 20 days after eating the contaminated food and can include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, jaundice, dark urine and pale stools, the FDA said.
People who believe they may be contaminated or have eaten the spoiled strawberries in the past two weeks should contact their healthcare provider, the FDA said.
In a statement, Texas-based HEB said it had not received or sold organic strawberries from the investigated supplier since April 16.
“All strawberries sold at HEB are safe,” the company said. “There have been no reports of strawberry disease related to the FDA investigation at HEB or in Texas.”
FreshKampo said it stopped shipping fresh organic strawberries due to the outbreak. The products sold between March 5 and April 25 came in plastic clamshell packaging with a label that reads “Distributed by Meridian Fruits,” the company said in a statement.
“FreshKampo wants consumers to know that it will continue to work with health officials and supply chain partners to determine where a problem in the supply chain has occurred and take the necessary steps to prevent it from happening again,” the statement said.