Swedish investigation: Frozen strawberries linked to Hepatitis A virus

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11 Jul 2018 --- Public health officials in Sweden are probing an outbreak of Hepatitis A in Sweden. Thirteen people are thought to be infected with the virus from a batch of frozen strawberries that were imported from Poland. The Public Health Agency of Sweden (Folkhälsomyndigheten), the National Food Agency (Livsmedelsverket) and local authorities are involved in the investigation which comes after eleven confirmed cases and two suspected cases were reported.

It has been reported that all the people infected come from different regions of Sweden and include nine women and four men in a wide age range of 11-92. All are understood to have consumed smoothies or desserts containing frozen imported strawberries that were not heated prior to consumption.

Following an initial probe, Swedish authorities have discovered that the frozen strawberries came from Poland and contained the same type of Hepatitis A virus. They are believed to have been sold by a Polish company to a wholesaler in Sweden who then supplied various foodservice outlets and caterers. 

One of the people is understood to have consumed the strawberries in a nursing home while another is believed to have eaten strawberries in a smoothie from a juice bar. 

A recall is now underway. 

A spokesperson for the Public Health Agency of Swedish confirms to FoodIngredientsFirst that there are 13 cases, 11 confirmed and two suspected reported from four different counties in Sweden.

“The source of infection is confirmed and an identical genotype IB strain is identified in a specific batch of frozen strawberries from Poland. A RASFF (2018.1813) was sent out on 2018-06-28. The batch is being recalled by the Swedish supplier and as far as we know the batch has only been sold to Sweden.”

“All cases had been eating the strawberries at the beginning of May.” 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Hepatitis A virus is transmitted through the ingestion of contaminated food and water or through direct contact with an infectious person. Symptoms typically last eight weeks and may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, fever and abdominal pain. Acute liver failure may rarely occur with this being more common in the elderly.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that in contaminated food, the highly contagious liver virus is killed when exposed to temperatures of more than 185°F (85°C) for one minute.

By Gaynor Selby

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