According to the recent CDC announcement, 134 people with hepatitis A have been reported from nine states: Arkansas (1), California (1), Maryland (12), New York (3), North Carolina (1), Oregon (1), Virginia (107), West Virginia (7), and Wisconsin (1). 129 of these cases reported eating a smoothie containing strawberries from Tropical Smoothie Café. 5 cases had no exposure to Tropical Smoothie café – which indicates a probable broader exposure to hepatitis A tainted strawberries. The latest illness onset date among these cases was October 1. The first illnesses were in April. We are representing nearly 80 of these people – mainly from Virginia. There are also cases in Texas that have gone unreported.
FDA traceback information indicated that the frozen strawberries served in the Tropical Smoothie Café locations were from the International Company for Agricultural Production & Processing (ICAPP), imported from Egypt.
On October 30, ICAPP recalled all of its frozen strawberries that were imported into the U.S. since January 1, 2016. The recalled products were distributed for sale to and use in food service establishments nationwide. The FDA reported that hepatitis A virus contamination was found in four samples of ICAPP frozen strawberries.
On November 3, the FDA also announced the five consignees who received recalled frozen strawberry products from ICAPP are:
- H. Belt of Lake Forest, Ca. (sold under CH World Brand)
- Jetro/Restaurant Depot of College Point, N.Y. (sold under James Farm brand and unbranded “Bits & Pieces”)
- Sysco Corporation of Houston, Tex. (sold under Sysco brand)
- Patagonia Foods of San Luis Obispo, Ca. (sold under Patagonia brand)
- Reddy Raw of Woodridge, N.J. (sold under Regal brand).
However, the FDA did not release where the above consignees then sold the recall strawberries. Thus far, only two states, California and Michigan have informed the public where the tainted strawberries may have been purchased by consumers.
A few questions for readers (press, health officials and companies involved):
- Are there other reported hepatitis A illnesses linked to these strawberries in other states dating back to January 2016?
- Why have only California and Michigan health authorities announced where the strawberries were sold at a consumer level?
- Why has ICAPP and the consignees been silent about where consumers would have come in contact with the strawberries?