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.

E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in Canada

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is alerting Canadians to an outbreak of fourteen cases of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses linked to consumption of Hankook brand kimchi products.

As of today, outbreak cases have been confirmed in Alberta (13) and Saskatchewan (1).

The first case was reported during the week of December 5, 2021, and the most recent case during the week of January 2, 2022.

Hankook Original Kimchi, 1670 g - UnitThe Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) issued a recall warning for the following product on January 28, 2022.

  • Hankook (Korean characters only) brand Original Kimchi, 1670g. UPC 6 23431 00030 4. Best before 22JA29.

The recalled product was sold in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

The CFIA is conducting a food safety investigation, which may result in the recall of additional products.

People infected with E. coli O157:H7 can develop a wide range of symptoms, which can appear between one day and ten days after consuming a contaminated food. Some do not get sick at all, though they can still spread the infection to others. Others may feel as though they have a bad case of upset stomach. In some cases, individuals become seriously ill and must be hospitalized.

Symptoms of an E. coli O157:H7 infection may include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • headache
  • mild fever
  • severe stomach cramps
  • watery or bloody diarrhea

The following advice from the PHAC applies to individuals, as well as retailers, distributors, manufacturers and food service establishments such as hotels, restaurants, cafeterias, hospitals and long-term care homes, across Canada:

  • Do not eat, use, sell or serve the recalled kimchi or any products made with the kimchi. Check to see if you have recalled food products at home. If you do, throw them out and wash your hands.
  • Clean and sanitize all surfaces and storage areas that recalled kimchi or any products made with the recalled kimchi may have come in contact with, including countertops, containers, utensils, freezers, and refrigerators.
  • If you have been diagnosed with an E. coli infection or any other gastrointestinal illness, do not cook food for other people.
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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
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