Organic strawberries behind hepatitis A outbreak

The FDA, the CDC, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, in cooperation with their partner agencies, are investigating a cross-border outbreak of hepatitis A illnesses linked to organic strawberries.

A total of 27 outbreak cases have been confirmed in all, including ten in Canada and seventeen in the United States.

Canadian cases are reported in Alberta (4) and Saskatchewan (6), in individuals between 10 and 75 years of age. Four of the ten victims have been hospitalized.

Cases in the United States have occurred in California (15), Minnesota (1) and North Dakota (1), with 12 hospitalizations reported.

Illness onset dates range from March 28 to April 30, 2022 in the US, and between early and mid-April in Canada.

Patient interviews conducted in both countries linked the outbreak to consumption of fresh organic strawberries sold in the United States between March 5th and April 25th, and in Canada between March 5th and March 9th.

The strawberries, which have passed their shelf life, were sold in Co-op stores in Alberta and Saskatchewan and at the following retailers in the United States under FreshKampo and HEB brand names:

  • Aldi
  • HEB
  • Kroger
  • Safeway
  • Sprouts Farmers Market
  • Trader Joe’s
  • Walmart
  • Weis Markets
  • WinCo Foods

The strawberries were distributed across the United States, but only sold in the two Canadian provinces where hepatitis cases were reported.

Neither the FDA nor the PHAC have indicated in what country the strawberries were grown.

Consumers who may have frozen the strawberries for later use should check their freezer and throw away any suspect product.

What consumers should do

  • Check your freezer for these fresh organic strawberries purchased between March 5 and 9, 2022 at Co-op stores in Alberta and Saskatchewan or between March 5 and April 25th at one of the US retailers listed above. If you froze them to eat later, do not eat them. Throw away any remaining organic strawberries. If you don’t know where the strawberries came from, throw them out.
  • Wash and sanitize any drawers, shelves, or containers where the products were stored using a kitchen sanitizer (follow the directions on the container) or prepare a bleach solution in a labelled spray bottle (you can use a ratio of 5 ml of household bleach to 750 ml of water) and rinse with water.
  • If you have eaten these organic strawberries, purchased fresh and later frozen, or have symptoms consistent with hepatitis A, see your health care provider immediately. Vaccination can prevent a hepatitis A infection if given within 14 days of exposure.
  • Wash your hands before and after preparing or eating food, and after using the washroom or changing diapers.
  • If you have been diagnosed with hepatitis A, do not prepare or serve food and drinks to others.

Jif’s Salmonella outbreak. What we know so far

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating an outbreak of Salmonella Senftenberg infections believed to be linked to consumption of Jif peanut butter products.

Jif peanut butters are manufactured by The JM Smucker Co.

outbreak-salmonella-peanut-butter-cdc-case-count-mapThe fourteen confirmed cases are scattered across twelve US states, including Arkansas (1), Georgia (2), Illinois (1), Massachusetts (1), Missouri (1), New York (1), North Carolina (1), Ohio (1), South Carolina (1), Texas (2), Virginia (1), and Washington (1). Two of the victims have been hospitalized.

The first reported victim became ill on February 17, 2022.

Outbreak victims range in age from less than one year old to 85 years old. The median age is 56, and 71% of the victims are female.

Interviews conducted with five of the outbreak victims revealed that all five had consumed peanut butter prior to falling ill. Two of the five had eaten Jif Creamy Reduced Fat peanut butter, one person reported Jif Natural Creamy Low Sodium peanut butter, and one person reported Jif Natural Creamy peanut butter.

The CDC cautions that the true number of sick people in an outbreak such as this is likely much higher than the number reported, and the outbreak may not be limited to the states with known illnesses. 

According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the outbreak strain is closely related to a strain of Salmonella recovered in 2010 from an environmental sample in the Lexington, Kentucky, manufacturing plant where the implicated Jif peanut butter products are made.

A review of the FDA’s inspection database reveals that the Lexington facility was inspected on five separate occasions since 2009, including inspections in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2015, and 2018.

The 2010 and 2015 inspections were classified as Voluntary Action Indicated (VAI), meaning the inspector found deficiencies that needed to be corrected by the company. There is no list of the reported deficiencies in the database for either of the VAI inspections.

Recall status

jif-front-backThe JM Smucker Co. has recalled a long list of Jif products, covering all lot codes from 1274425 to 2140425, but only with the first seven digits ending in 425 (the identifier code for the Lexington production plant).

Recalled products were distributed across the United States and exported to Canada.

The company has issued a separate recall notice listing the products distributed in Canada.

In addition to being sold through retail stores and other outlets, peanut butter is often used as an ingredient in other products. Recalls of products containing Jif peanut butter have already begun.

For an up-to-date linked list of announced recall notices, please select the Jif/Smucker Recalls menu item at the top of the page.

CDC’s advice to consumers

  • Do not eat any recalled Jif brand peanut butter. Throw it away.
  • This product has a very long shelf life, so be sure to check any Jif peanut butter you have at home to make sure it has not been recalled.
  • Wash surfaces and containers that may have touched the recalled peanut butter using hot, soapy water.
  • Call your healthcare provider if you have one or more of these symptoms after eating recalled peanut butter:
    • Diarrhea and a fever higher than 102°F
    • Diarrhea for more than 3 days that is not improving
    • Bloody diarrhea
    • So much vomiting that you cannot keep liquids down
    • Signs of dehydration, such as:
      • Not peeing much
      • Dry mouth and throat
      • Feeling dizzy when standing up

CDC’s advice to businesses

  • Do not sell or serve recalled Jif brand peanut butter.
  • Wash and sanitize containers and surfaces that may have come in contact with recalled peanut butter.

Read more about previous outbreaks of Salmonella involving peanut butter in TAINTED. From Farm Gate to Dinner Plate, Fifty Years of Food Safety Failures, now available in digital, print and audiobook editions.

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Massive onion recall sparked by Salmonella outbreak

ProSource Produce LLC of Hailey, Idaho is recalling whole raw onions imported from Mexico due to potential Salmonella contamination.

The recall comes after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) identified ProSource as a source of onions linked to a large multi-state outbreak of Salmonella Oranienburg illnesses that has sickened 652 people so far, sending 129 of them to hospital.

To date, no onions marketed through ProSource have tested positive for Salmonella, according to the company.

The Recall

The recall encompasses red, yellow, and white whole raw onions shipped to the United States from Chihuahua, Mexico, between July 1, 2021, and August 31, 2021, and includes the following brand names:

  • Big Bull
  • Peak Fresh Produce
  • Sierra Madre
  • Markon First Crop.
  • Markon Essentials
  • Rio Blue
  • ProSource
  • Rio Valley
  • Sysco Imperial

The onions were distributed to wholesalers, broadline foodservice customers, and retail stores in 50 lb., 25 lb., 10 lb., 5 lb., 3 lb., and 2 lb. mesh sacks; and 50 lb., 40 lb., 25 lb., 10 lb., and 5 lb. cartons in:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Iowa
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnisota
  • Missouri
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Some of the recalled product also was shipped to Ontario and Québec, Canada.

The Outbreak

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) first identified an outbreak of 20 confirmed cases of Salmonella Oranienburg illnesses on September 2, 2021. By September 15th, the date of CDC’s initial outbreak investigation announcement, the number of cases had risen to 127 people from twenty-five states.

On September 24th, the CDC reported having found the outbreak strain in a sample taken from a takeout condiment cup containing cilantro and lime. The outbreak victim who supplied the condiment cup reported that it also had contained onions, but none were left in the cup at the time of sampling.

As of October 18th, the CDC had amassed reports of 652 confirmed outbreak cases from 37 US states. Thirty-one percent (31%) of the outbreak victims required hospitalization.

Salmonella Oranienburg illnesses caused by the outbreak strain have been reported by the following states:

  • Alabama (3)
  • Arkansas (12)
  • California (9)
  • Colorado (1)
  • Connecticut (4)
  • Florida (5)
  • Georgia (2)
  • Illinois (37)
  • Indiana (1)
  • Iowa (3)
  • Kansas (14)
  • Kentucky (9)
  • Louisiana (5)
  • Maryland (48)
  • Massachusetts (12)
  • Michigan (9)
  • Minnesota (23)
  • Mississippi (2)
  • Missouri (21)
  • Nebraska (8)
  • New Jersey (5)
  • New Mexico (8)
  • New York (12)
  • North Carolina (14)
  • North Dakota (4)
  • Ohio (7)
  • Oklahoma (98)
  • Oregon (2)
  • Pennsylvania (7)
  • South Carolina (3)
  • South Dakota (8)
  • Tennessee (10)
  • Texas (158)
  • Utah (3)
  • Virginia (59)
  • West Virginia (1)
  • Wisconsin (25)

Déjà Vu

In the summer of 2020, the CDC and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) identifed a cross-border outbreak of Salmonella Newport infections that sickened more than 1100 people in 48 US states and 515 in seven Canadian provinces.

The source of the 2020 outbreak was traced to onions supplied by Thomson International Inc. of Bakersfield, California. Although, the outbreak strain was never recovered from Thomson’s onions, the FDA found eleven different Salmonella serotypes from various environmental samples.

What You Need To Know

Illness subclusters investigated in this outbreak are currently associated with restaurants and food service locations.

The investigation is ongoing to determine the source of contamination and if additional products or firms are linked to illness.

The FDA is working to determine if these onions were available to consumers through grocery stores.

Meanwhile, the CDC advises businesses and individuals to take the following precautions:

  • Businesses should not sell or serve fresh whole red, white, or yellow onions that were imported from Chihuahua, Mexico and distributed by ProSource Inc.
  • Do not buy or eat any whole fresh red, white, or yellow onions if they were imported from Chihuahua, Mexico and distributed by ProSource Inc.
  • Throw away any whole red, white, or yellow onions you have at home that do not have a sticker or packaging.
  • Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these severe Salmonella symptoms:
    • Diarrhea and a fever higher than 102°F
    • Diarrhea for more than 3 days that is not improving
    • Bloody diarrhea
    • So much vomiting that you cannot keep liquids down
    • Signs of dehydration, such as:
      • Not peeing much
      • Dry mouth and throat
      • Feeling dizzy when standing up
TAINTED
TAINTED. From Farm Gate to Dinner Plate, Fifty Years of Food Safety Failures

Learn more about foodborne illness outbreaks, why they happen, and how to prevent them.

TAINTED. From Farm Gate to Dinner Plate, Fifty Years of Food Safety Failures.

Available in hardcover, paperback and ebook formats.