Hepatitis A in Strawberries and Food Safety Tips
Molly Howell, MPH, with the North Dakota Department of Health talks about the outbreak of Hepatitis A linked to fresh, organic strawberries.
Below is the transcription to the above audio:
This is KNOWTIFY.
Hi, this is Molly Howell, immunization director for the North Dakota Department of Health. The Department of Health is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other states investigating an outbreak of Hepatitis A in the United States that’s been linked to fresh organic strawberries. One individual in North Dakota has tested positive with Hepatitis A linked to this outbreak, and that individual was hospitalized and has since recovered.
What we really want North Dakotans to know is that certain fresh organic strawberries have been linked to this outbreak. So people who purchased either FreshKampo or HEB fresh organic strawberries between March 5th and April 25th of this year and froze them for consumption later should not eat those strawberries as they may be contaminated with Hepatitis A. If you routinely freeze strawberries and you don’t know what brand may be in your freezer, we’re asking North Dakotans to discard those strawberries just to make sure that they’re not the brands that have been associated with Hepatitis A.
Hepatitis A is a liver disease that can cause serious illness including jaundice, elevated liver enzymes, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. It does have a high hospitalization rate and so that’s why we want to make sure people are aware of the risk associated with these strawberries. If you recently ate either of these brands of strawberries and it’s been within two weeks, you can still be vaccinated against Hepatitis A, what’s called post exposure prophylaxis and that may prevent you from going on to develop Hepatitis A infection. Anyone who was vaccinated prior to being exposed should have immunity and does not need to worry.
Some general tips when you’re looking at purchasing produce is to purchase produce that isn’t bruised or damaged and choose items that are refrigerated and kept on ice, especially if you’re buying precut, fruits and vegetables. You want to make sure that you separate your fruits and vegetables from any raw meat, poultry, or seafood in your shopping cart, in your grocery bag and even at home. Once you have produce at home, make sure you wash your hands before preparing the produce and after preparing the produce. You want to clean all fruits and vegetables before eating, cutting or cooking unless the package says the contents have been pre-washed. To clean fruits and vegetables you want to wash or scrub under running water, and this includes vegetables that even have peel as germs on the peel or the skin of fruits and vegetables can get into the fruit or vegetable when you cut them up.
You don’t need to wash fruits and vegetables with soap detergent or commercial produce wash, as that’s not recommended and you do not want to use any bleach solution when washing fruits or vegetables. Keep fruits and vegetables separate from other foods including meat, poultry, and seafood in your refrigerator, and make sure you refrigerate all fruits and vegetables within two hours after you cut, peel or cook them. Some people are at higher risk for food poisoning and may want to take into consideration whether or not they want to eat certain high risk foods and vegetables, including items like sprouts. So people 65 and older, children under the age of five, people who have certain health problems or take medications that make their immune system not work as well or pregnant women may want to consider not eating high risk foods like sprouts.