The Virginia Department of Health recently issued a statewide Hepatitis A warning linked to strawberries that have been served at a local restaurant chain, and since then, the number of confirmed cases has more than doubled.
The warning, issued on August 19, said that the Tropical Smoothie products that were sold on August 5 through August 8 contained strawberries that may have put clients at risk for hepatitis A. According to News Leader, it was released after 10 people in Virginia contracted the disease after eating products with strawberries sold at the restaurant’s locations. Earlier this week, the health department confirmed the number of cases to have more than doubled to 44.
ABC News reported that the outbreak has been linked to the supply of frozen strawberries from Egypt. Company officials said that these strawberries, however, account for a small portion of their overall supply and have now been pulled out from their stores.
Tropical Smoothie Café CEO Mike Rotondo said in a statement, “‘Eat better, feel better’ is not just a marketing slogan – it’s a promise, and it’s something I believe in very dearly. Recently some strawberries may have made their way into the supply chain that could challenge that concept. I sincerely apologize for any issues this may have caused for any of our customers.”
Hepatitis A is a contagious disease that spreads from person to person via the fecal-oral route, and sometimes, attributed to contaminated food or water. According to a Hepatitis Info page About Hepatitis, food-related outbreaks are usually associated with contamination during food preparation by a HAV-infected food handler.
Fresh produce like strawberries can be contaminated during cultivation, harvesting, processing, or distribution. This is not the first outbreak from strawberries in the US, either – in 1997, an outbreak in five states was also linked to frozen strawberries. Other produce such as blueberries, onions, and lettuce, have also been associated with the disease in the US and other developed countries.