No product recall issued by Townsend Farms.  Costco does pull product from shelves and calls some – but not all members to return product. 

Where is FDA recall authority?

According to the CDC, as of May 31, 2013, 30 people ill with acute hepatitis A that may be linked with consumption of a contaminated product have been reported by five states: Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, and California.  These numbers are expected to change as the investigation continues. Based on epidemiologic investigation of 19 cases:

  • 12 (63%) ill people are women
  • All people are ages 18 or older, ranging from 25 – 71 years
  • Illness onset dates range from 4/29/2013 – 5/17/2013
  • 9 (47%) ill people have been hospitalized
  • 11 (65%) of 17 ill people interviewed reported eating ‘Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend,’ a frozen berry and pomegranate seed mix
  • 11 persons who have provided purchase information reported purchasing this product from ‘Costco’ markets; however, investigations are ongoing to determine if this product was sold at other stores or venues.

Preliminary laboratory studies of specimens from two cases suggest the outbreak strain of hepatitis A virus (HAV) is genotype 1B. This strain is rarely seen in the Americas but circulates in the North Africa and Middle East regions.  This genotype was identified in a 2013 outbreak in Europe linked to frozen berries and another 2012 outbreak in British Columbia related to a frozen berry blend with pomegranate seeds from Egypt.

According to the label, The Townsend Farms Organic Anti-oxidant Blend frozen berry mix associated with illness contained pomegranate seeds and other produce from the US, Argentina, Chile and Turkey.

However, according to Lynne Terry of the Oregonian, “Townsend Farms has not ordered a recall, but Costco has removed the berries from its shelves.”  Interestingly, there is nothing on the Townsend Farms website informing consumers of anything about its Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend, which contains cherries, blueberries, pomegranate seeds, raspberries and strawberries, except its interest in food safety.

Costco’s website links to the CDC website which does say: “Costco is notifying its members.”  Costco also links to the FDA website.  I have spoken to two Costco members who have received phone calls from Costco informing them that they can return the product for a refund.  I have also heard from two Costco member who have not received such a call (photo of product to above right).

Townsend Farms Organic Anti-oxidant Blend frozen berry mix is a frozen product is likely to still be in consumers freezers.  Townsend Farms and the FDA should be announcing a recall.  Costco is being responsible by pulling product and calling its members (well, some of them), but the public deserves a more complete recall.