FDA Investigates 89+ Cases Hepatitis A Linked to Strawberry Smoothies

strawberry smoothie
Food Safety Contamination

In recent months, dozens of people have been sickened with hepatitis A due to frozen strawberries sourced from Egypt. The berries were served in smoothies at the Tropical Cafe smoothie chain and have now infected 89 individuals with hepatitis A as of September 8.

Those sickened by the tainted fruit hail from 7 states: Maryland, North Carolina, New York, Oregon, Virginia, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working with the Centers for Disease Control and local and state officials to investigate the strawberries. [1]

The majority of those hospitalized have been from Virginia, where the outbreak was originally discovered. They make up 70 of the 89 people who have thus far been sickened. And while there have been no deaths linked to the strawberries, 39 people have been hospitalized due to hepatitis A. [2]

Hepatitis A has a long incubation period, and thus people could still become infected with the disease. It is still likely that someone could develop symptoms if they had a smoothie at Tropical Cafe in Virginia before August 8. The Egyptian strawberries, which are at the epicenter of the controversy, were removed on that date. Tropical Cafe pulled all of the Egyptian strawberries nationwide on August 19.

Currently, the investigation is ongoing and the FDA is in talks with the Egyptian International Health Regulations National Focal Point to discuss the outbreak.

Those who have had a smoothie with the contaminated strawberries in it are still at risk for developing the contagious disease. The CDC and FDA advise that people who have visited the cafe be aware of the symptoms of hepatitis A. They are as follows:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort, especially in the area of your liver on your right side beneath your lower ribs
  • Clay-colored bowel movements
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low-grade fever
  • Dark urine
  • Joint pain
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)

It is advised that if you are suffering from the above symptoms, to contact your doctor immediately. Those who work in food services are advised to stay home from work until symptoms pass, as the disease can be contagious.

Sources:

[1] Food Poison Journal

[2] CDC