Recall of Frozen Strawberries from Costco, Trader Joe’s, and Aldi Due to Hepatitis A Infections
An investigation into a Hepatitis A virus outbreak connected to frozen organic strawberries is currently underway by the FDA and CDC. Frozen organic strawberries from stores such as Costco and Aldi and a frozen fruit blend from Trader Joe’s have all been recalled following their association with a Hepatitis A infection outbreak in Washington state. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns against consuming, selling, or serving specific frozen organic strawberry brands after five individuals contracted Hepatitis A from the product, resulting in two hospitalizations.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discovered that all five cases involved individuals who had consumed frozen strawberries from a shared supplier. Strawberries from this supplier were sourced from select farms in Baja, California, and Mexico. The Hepatitis A strain responsible for this year’s illnesses is genetically identical to the strain from a previous outbreak involving fresh organic strawberries imported from Mexico and sold at various U.S. retailers.
Hepatitis A is a resilient virus that can withstand freezing temperatures, persisting for hours on human hands and for days on contaminated surfaces. In light of the investigation, two suppliers have issued recalls for frozen organic strawberries. California Splendor, based in San Diego, California, has recalled specific lots of 4-pound bags of Kirkland brand frozen strawberries sold at Costco stores in California.
Scenic Fruit Company, located in Gresham, Oregon, has voluntarily recalled frozen organic strawberries distributed to Costco, Aldi, KeHE, Vital Choice Seafood, and PCC Community Markets in certain states, as well as Trader Joe’s stores nationwide. The strawberries were part of Trader Joe’s Organic Tropical Fruit Blend. The affected strawberry bags have “best by” dates ranging from April to November 2024, and a comprehensive list of the recalled products can be found on the FDA’s website.
The CDC and FDA recommend disposing of any recalled strawberries in your freezer or returning them to the store for a refund. The Hepatitis A virus primarily targets the liver, with symptoms appearing 15 to 50 days after consuming contaminated food or water. Common symptoms of Hepatitis A infection include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, jaundice, dark urine, and pale stool. Some infections, particularly in children under six years old, may be asymptomatic.
How do strawberries become contaminated with Hepatitis A?
Strawberries can become contaminated with Hepatitis A through several means, often involving contact with contaminated water or surfaces or infected workers. Some possible ways of contamination include:
- Irrigation water: If the water used for irrigating the strawberry fields is contaminated with Hepatitis A, the virus can come into contact with the fruit. This contamination may occur if the water source is polluted with sewage or fecal matter containing the virus.
- Handling and processing: Infected workers who do not maintain proper hygiene can transmit the virus to the strawberries during picking, sorting, or packaging. Hepatitis A can survive on surfaces for an extended period, so if an infected person touches the fruit, the virus can be transferred.
- Washing and cleaning: If the water used to wash the strawberries is contaminated with Hepatitis A, the fruit can become tainted. Additionally, if the facilities and equipment used for washing and processing the strawberries are not adequately sanitized, the virus can spread to the produce.
- Cross-contamination: Hepatitis A can spread from contaminated surfaces or other infected produce to strawberries during storage, transportation, or display in stores.
To reduce the risk of Hepatitis A contamination, it is crucial to follow proper sanitation and hygiene practices at every stage of the production process, from the field to the store. This includes using clean water for irrigation and washing, maintaining the personal hygiene of workers, and regularly sanitizing facilities and equipment.
Can I file a lawsuit seeking damages?
In many cases, it is possible to file a lawsuit for a Hepatitis A infection caused by food contamination. If you have become ill due to consuming contaminated food, you may be able to seek compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages through a personal injury or product liability lawsuit. To prove your case, you must need to establish the following:
- Negligence: You need to prove that the party responsible for producing, distributing, or selling the contaminated food (e.g., the manufacturer, distributor, or retailer) was negligent in their handling, processing, or sanitation practices, leading to the contamination.
- Causation: You must demonstrate that the contaminated food directly caused your Hepatitis A infection. This may involve providing medical records, lab tests, and other evidence that links the specific food product to your illness.
- Damages: You will need to show that you have suffered damages as a result of the Hepatitis A infection, such as medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, or other financial or emotional consequences.
It is important that you consult with one of our experienced product liability attorneys to have your claim evaluated and to receive guidance concerning your options. Laws and procedures can vary by jurisdiction, and a lawyer from Parker Waichman LLP will be able to provide advice tailored to your specific case.
CONTACT PARKER WAICHMAN LLP FOR A FREE CASE REVIEW
Our national product injury attorneys understand the devastating impact that a Hepatitis A diagnosis can have on you, and we are here to help you understand your legal options. Call us now at 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER (1-800-968-7529) to receive a free, no-obligation consultation.
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