Food warning issued after Hepatitis A outbreak

Consumers have been warned to boil frozen berries before consumption after they were linked to an outbreak of Hepatitis A.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) revealed that 10 cases of the virus have been recorded, with half of them linked to the product.

Professor Alan Reilly, FSAI chief executive, said the source of the outbreak is not yet known, but all indications point towards imported frozen berries, such as blueberries, raspberries, redcurrants, blackberries and strawberries.

“At this stage of the investigation, there is no evidence to suggest that fresh Irish or fresh imported berries are implicated,” he said.

“Therefore, as a precautionary measure, we are advising consumers to boil all imported frozen berries for at least one minute before eating them to destroy the virus.

“Also we remind consumers to wash all fresh berries, and other fruit and vegetables if eating them uncooked.”

Hepatitis A can be a relatively mild virus lasting one to two weeks, though some people suffer for months.

Severity of symptoms tends to increase with age and include fever, loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue and abdominal pain, followed within a few days by jaundice.

Investigations are focused on tracking and tracing foods consumed by those infected with the virus to identify the source.

The FSAI said a similar outbreak has been identified in Italy, which is also linked to frozen berries.

Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland are also dealing with outbreaks, but a different strain was found.

Prof Reilly said frozen imported berries are widely used in the food industry and distributed into the food service sector for use in cooked and ready-to-eat dishes.

“The food sector needs to also take particular care to boil frozen imported berries for at least one minute prior to serving to its customers,” he added.

“Food businesses must always ensure they source their ingredients from reputable suppliers with efficient and comprehensive traceability and food safety management systems.”

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