5 October 2022

Pams frozen berries recalled due to possible Hepatitis A risk

12 cases of hepatitis A linked to frozen berry consumption.

Pams brand frozen berry products have been recalled as a precaution because of a possible link to recent hepatitis A cases.

The recall affects all batches and date ranges of the following products:

  • Pams brand Mixed Berries, 500g

  • Pams brand Two Berry Mix, 1kg

  • Pams brand Two Berry Mix, 750g

  • Pams brand Smoothie Berry Mix, 500g

  • Pams brand Raspberries, 500g

  • Pams brand Raspberries, 350g

Pams frozen berries are sold at Pak’nSave, New World and Four Square stores throughout the country, as well as Trents Wholesale and Raeward Fresh stores in the South Island.

Customers can return the berries to one of the affected stores for a full refund.

There are currently 12 hepatitis A cases in the community linked to eating frozen berries.

“So far, eight of the 12 cases are linked by genetic sequencing, meaning they were likely exposed to the same source of the virus,” said Vincent Arbuckle, New Zealand Food Safety (NZFS) deputy director general. “Seven of the cases have been hospitalised.”

NZFS is continuing to investigate the outbreak. The virus here is a genetic match to one which caused illness in Sweden in 2020 and 2021. That illness had a possible link to frozen berries from Serbia.

However, Mr Arbuckle said, it is possible that another potential source may be identified, or no definitive confirmed source is found at all.

As a precaution, other frozen berry importers have decided to place on hold other berries which can be traced back to Serbia, while the NZFS investigation continues.

While other berries have a weaker link to the cases, and contain fewer berries from Serbia, “we support the importers’ voluntary decision to place them on hold from sale while our work to identify the source of the infection continues”.

How to reduce the risk of hepatitis A in frozen fruit

While the recall is for Pams frozen berries, a definitive source of the outbreak has not been found, so the NZFS recommends consumers take precautions with all frozen berries:

  • briefly boil frozen berries before eating them, or;

  • ensure the cooking temperature exceeds 85°C for one minute;

  • if you are microwaving berries, stir half-way through to ensure they’re cooked properly.

Just washing the fruit won’t eliminate the risk.

What is hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection. It is spread through contact with the faeces of an infected person or through environmental contamination, such as manure used as soil fertilisers.

Symptoms may feel like the flu, and you may look jaundiced, lose your appetite and have stomach pain. In most cases, your body will clear the infection, but if you’re immune-compromised or elderly, the disease can linger for up to six months.

A 2019 review, in the journal Epidemiology and Infection, examined cases of hepatitis A from frozen fruit between 2008 and 2018. It found that frozen strawberries were responsible for 41% of hepatitis A outbreaks worldwide.

In North America and Europe, cases of norovirus have also been linked to eating frozen fruit.

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