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Berry Bad: Hepatitis A Outbreak in 5 States Tied to Organic Frozen Berry Mix

Update Date: Jun 03, 2013 10:22 AM EDT
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Government health officials have linked an outbreak of hepatitis A to a frozen organic berry and pomegranate mix sold at Costco.

The Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend has reportedly sickened at least 30 people in five states, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

Illnesses have been reported in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and California. The first cases were reported on April 29 and the most recent case was May 17, and health officials predict more will come.

The CDC said that many of the patients reported buying the berry and pomegranate seed mix at Costco. According to the Associated Press, a Costco spokesman said that the company has removed the frozen fruit mix from stores and is attempting to contact customers who purchased the product in recent month.

Authorities are still investigating whether the product was sold at other stores or markets. They say that frozen berry blends are frequently used to make smoothies, frozen bar drinks and other types of desserts and drinks. Officials are worried that smaller businesses might have bought the tainted frozen berry mix to use in other products, according to USA Today.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection that can last from weeks to months, according to the Mayo Clinic. The disease is caused by the hepatitis A virus, which can cause inflammation and affects the liver's ability to function. People are most likely to contact the virus from contaminated food or water or from close contact with someone who's already infected. Some of the symptoms associated with hepatitis A include fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, dark urine, muscle pain, and yellowing of the skin and eyes. However, not everyone with infection develops symptoms.

According to the CDC, 47 percent of the people who have been sickened in this outbreak have been hospitalized.

While authorities have not announced a recall, they advise that retailers and others in the food industry not sell or serve Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend.

Officials are now inspecting the processing facilities of Townsend Farms of Fairview, Ore., which sold the mix. Investigators said that the strain of hepatitis linked to the berry product is rarely seen in North or South American, but is known to circulate in the North African and Middle East regions.

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