A notice about the recall of frozen strawberries in connection to a hepatitis A outbreak investigation has been posted to the FDA web site. International Agricultural Production & Processing (ICAPP) is voluntarily recalling certain lots of its frozen strawberries that were imported into the United States. A link on the recall notice points to the hepatitis A outbreak linked to Tropical Smoothie Cafe products in the eastern United States.
These frozen berries were all distributed for sale to and use in food service establishments throughout the country. They were not sold to individual consumers at the retail level. But the recall notice states that “ICAPP is issuing this news release publicly to help mitigate any possible risk to the public health and to fully ensure that all recalled products are recovered.” The notice is quite vague, only stating that “ICAPP has decided to recall all frozen strawberries that it has imported into the United States since January 1, 2016 out of an abundance of caution.”
The recall notice also states that “ICAPP … is taking this action in consultation with FDA because Hepatitis A virus was detected in four lots of frozen strawberries that were exported to the U.S. by ICAPP.” Apparently, the company’s own testing through third parties did not reveal hepatitis A in their products, although the FDA did find the virus in their product.
The FDA placed frozen strawberries from ICAPP on import alert 99-35 after “multiple positive samples confirmed hepatitis A in the product,” according to information on the FDA’s page on the outbreak. The note on that import alert was heavily redacted, but does state that the berries were imported from Industrial Zone A2 (Lot W), 10th of Ramadan City, EG-SHR EGYPT.
The Hepatitis A Outbreak
The hepatitis A outbreak in question is linked to Tropical Smoothie Cafe restaurants in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and West Virginia. As of October 20, 2016, 134 people in 9 states have been sickened in this outbreak. Fifty-two people have been hospitalized, which is a high percentage, since most hepatitis A outbreaks only have a 20% hospitalization rate.
The case count by state in this outbreak is: Arkansas (1), California (1), Maryland (12), New York (3), North Carolina (1), Oregon (1), Virginia (107), West Virginia (7), and Wisconsin (1). Epidemiological and traceback evidence indicates that frozen strawberries imported from Egypt are the “likely source” of this outbreak. Almost all of those sickened reported drinking smoothies made with strawberries at Tropical Smoothie locations before August 8, 2016. That’s the date that Tropical Smoothie management removed the frozen strawberries in question from their restaurants nationwide.
Hepatitis A Symptoms
The symptoms of hepatitis A include jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin), weight loss, fatigue, loss of appetite, fever, abdominal pain, clay colored stools, and dark urine. The incubation period for this illness ranges from 15 days to 50 days. And unfortunately, during the incubation period, people who are infected can be contagious without even knowing they have the virus.
If you consumed Tropical Smoothie products in the four states mentioned above before August 8, 2016 and have experienced the symptoms of hepatitis A, see your doctor. If you consumed frozen strawberries from other restaurants and have developed hepatitis A, it’s a good idea to see your doctor too. Then contact our experienced attorneys for help to protect your legal rights.
Hepatitis A Lawsuit
Fifty-two people sickened in this outbreak, or 38.8%, have been hospitalized in this outbreak. Hepatitis A can be a serious illness. People infected with this virus can be sick for months, especially if they have liver disease or compromised immune systems.
We don’t know why so many people have been hospitalized in this particular outbreak. Some people who are sick with hepatitis A can be ill for months, and the illness can relapse. In fact, some patients can become so ill that they can require a liver transplant. This illness can be fatal.
Depending on the individual case, a lawsuit against a restaurant may ask for compensation for several reasons. Pain and suffering, medical expenses, and lost wages can all play into a lawsuit. Contact our firm now for a free consultation with an experienced hepatitis A lawyer.