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Hepatitis A outbreak linked to berries spreads to 1 more state

By Rachel Brooks

Contributor |  Telegraph Local 

See New African Living Standard

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Hepatitis A is spreading across state lines again. Citing Channel 3000, the latest state to report outbreak is Wisconsin. This most recent strain was detected in berries. The most recent strain, linked to blackberries sold in Fresh Thyme grocery stores, was declared a “food safety alert” by the CDC on November 20. The CDC and the Food and Drug administration are looking to contain the problem. They will be seeking to identify all sources of the conventional (non-organic) berries. 

Screencapture of the FDA Twitter post created on November 26 

Citing the Associated Press via Fox 59, the berries generated-strain of Hepatitis a is now responsible for 16 cases of hepatitis A across state lines. The states from this strain include Nebraska, Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan, Missouri, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Any consumer who purchases fresh conventional blackberries from Fresh Thyme locations between September 9-30 in these states was exposed. Symptoms of hepatitis A may not present until six weeks after exposure. If you had purchased or eaten blackberries sold in these states within the last two months, you should likely be tested by a physician for hepatitis A.   

The Fresh Thyme grocers are working with public health investigations to determine the precise source of the contamination. Contamination risk should include berry mixes that were purchased at Fresh Thyme groceries for precaution. 

Screencapture of blackberries, the contaminated produce, still on sale at Fresh Thymes’ locations despite outbreak. The new berries are susceptible to recall, citing CDC, but all berries purchased in the month of September should be discarded. Discretion advised. 

Produce is also highly susceptible to cross-contamination in the grocer storage room, refer to FMI Produce Safety Best Practice Guide for Retailers. The Fresh Thyme stores also sell organic blackberries that are sourced from Driscoll’s. While no contamination was reported directly from the organic certified berries, it may be advisable to discard all berries recently purchased from Fresh Thyme groceries. Frozen berries should be discarded as well. 

Fresh Thyme’s stores, citing The Packer, sourced their berries from a distribution center that supplies 11 states. The FDA is working with Federal-level and State-level personnel to obtain additional information. The Fresh Thyme Farmers Market Distribution Center for these states is located in Bolingbrook, IL.  It has not been officially announced if this is the specific location where the outbreak was first detected but it appears that Fresh Thyme has but one distribution center for its relatively small store chain. It is noted that there have been freshness complaints against this location recently on their Facebook handle. The center has also received complaints from former employees on Glassdoor. 

Have you eaten blackberries from Fresh Thyme stores in the last 14-days? You can receive a postexposure prophylaxis treatment from your local healthcare provider to prevent illness. The post-exposure treatment, called PEP, is only recommended for people who have not been vaccinated against hepatitis A, citing the FDA as quoted by KSW Food Micro. 

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