The Hepatitis A outbreak in Australia that has infected 14 people is now one step closer to finding the possible source.
Patties Foods, which has recalled several frozen berry product line due to a potential link to the health scare, is narrowing down its search for the cause to raspberries from China.
While the recalled products were packed in China and included Chinese strawberries, raspberries and blackberries, they also included Chilean blueberries which prompted the South American country’s industry to defend its reputation amid the claims.
“Investigations through our supply chain have identified a specific source of raspberries as a potential common link to the possible safety issues raised by Health Authorities,” Patties managing director Steven Chaur said in a release.
“While there are no confirmed test results indicating a potential link to Hepatitis A, we are working proactively with Health Authorities based on the information they have presented to date.
“The specific source supplied raspberries which were packed in Nanna’s and Creative Gourmet Mixed Berries, that were the subject of the Consumer Recall announced over the weekend. The source also supplied product for Nanna’s Raspberries 1kg packs, with Best Before Dates up until 15/09/16.”
He said the source no longer supplied Patties Foods.
“Some product that was previously supplied by the source may still be in the market and we are taking this added precautionary measure of conducting an additional Consumer Recall of all frozen raspberries associated with this specific source located in China, in the interests of public safety.
“The Consumer Recall is in advance of further microbiological test results, but given the potential health threat and the level of community concern, we are taking this precautionary measure.
“As a company, we apologise to our consumers and customers for the concern and distress this is causing.”
Hepatitis A symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, fever, yellow skin and dark urine, and usually start about 30 days after exposure to the virus.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported local berry growers were outraged by Patties Foods’ claim to Australian customers that it did not always use local fruit because it wasn’t always possible to get the right quantity or quality.
“I certainly dispute that. We have premium, excellent quality berries that are now available 12 months of the year,” Raspberries and Blackberries Australia executive officer Jonathan Eccles was quoted as saying.
“It comes down to quantity and the price they’re willing to pay. Not quality.”
The newspaper reported an email sent by Patties two years ago to a customer said the company’s policy was to “acquire Australian fruit wherever possible”, however in the last two years the importer has brought in fruit from China, New Zealand, Canada, Chile, the U.S., Greece, Turkey and Serbia.