More Frozen Berries Recalled over Hepatitis Fears

FDA(WASHINGTON) -- A second frozen berry producer has recalled packages containing pomegranate seeds from Turkey over concerns the seeds could be contaminated with hepatitis A, a highly contagious liver infection.

Scenic Fruit Company in Oregon recalled 61,092 8-ounce bags of Woodstock Frozen Organic Pomegranate Kernels shipped between February and May of this year. No one has become sick from eating the kernels nor have researchers found any evidence of hepatitis A contamination, according to a statement on the Food and Drug Administration’s website.

“The company’s decision to voluntarily recall products is made from an abundance of caution in response to an ongoing outbreak investigation by the FDA and CDC,” according to the recall.

An ongoing hepatitis A outbreak linked to berries from Townsend Farms in Oregon has sickened 122 people in eight states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fifty-four of them have been hospitalized.

Experts told ABC News earlier this month that they suspected the pomegranate seeds from Turkey, which were added to the Townsend Farms berry mix, caused the outbreak.

The Scenic Fruit Company’s recalled pomegranate kernels also came from Turkey, according to the FDA recall.

Hepatitis A is fatal to one in 200 patients, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is usually spread through person-to-person contact when an infected person does not properly wash his or her hands after using the bathroom. It can also be spread through contaminated food, usually in countries with poor sanitation.

This particular strain of hepatitis A is rarely seen in the United States, and is most common in North Africa and the Middle East, according to the CDC’s web page dedicated to the outbreak. According to the Townsend Farms berry mix label, ingredients came from Argentina, Chile, Turkey and the United States.

The CDC, the Food and Drug Administration and state health departments are still investigating the outbreak. Townsend Farms voluntarily recalled the berry blend on June 4, and Costco pulled the berries from shelves and began notifying customers who bought them May 31, according to CDC and FDA news releases.

Since there is no FDA-approved test for hepatitis A on food other than green onions, berries aren’t tested for the virus, Craig Wilson, vice president of food safety and quality assurance at Costco, which sold the Townsend Farms berries, told ABC News. Officials have used the green onion test on the berries in light of the outbreak, but results have been negative. Wilson said he did the same and got the same negative test results.

“Townsend Farms has an excellent record,” Wilson said in early June. “Their food safety program plant is very good. That was confirmed by the FDA inspection. They just went through a five-day FDA inspection.”

Since Costco suppliers are required to have the ability to trace all their product ingredients, they turned their attention to the pomegranate seeds from Turkey that were added to the berry blend, Wilson said. This is because the virus strain that affected consumers is rare in the Americas but common in the Middle East.

Scenic Fruit Company did not immediately return calls from ABC News seeking comment.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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