MONDAY, JUNE 18, 2018

Multi-state hepatitis A virus outbreak linked to pomegranate seeds from Turkey

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Friday that a multi-state hepatitis A outbreak was traced back to a common shipment of pomegranate seeds from a company in Turkey.

Pomegranate seeds from Goknur Foodstuffs Import Export Trading were used by the U.S. company Townsend Farms, Inc., to make Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend, a product sold from Costco markets. As of Thursday, 10 states reported 158 total cases of hepatitis A after eating the product.

While all ill people who reported eating the product bought the antioxidant blend from Costco markets, the product was also sold at Harris Teeter stores. There were no ill people identified who bought the product from Harris Teeter.

The CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration determined the major outbreak strain of hepatitis A virus belonged to genotype 1B, which is rarely seen in the Americas but is found in North Africa and the Middle East. The genotype was identified in a 2013 outbreak of hepatitis A virus infections in Europe connected with frozen berries and a 2012 British Columbia outbreak linked to a frozen berry blend with pomegranate seeds from Egypt. There is no evidence that the outbreaks are related to the ongoing U.S. outbreak.

In June, Townsend Farms and another company, Scenic Fruit Company, recalled certain product lots because of potential hepatitis A virus contamination.

The FDA is working with the firms that distributed pomegranate seeds from the shipment from Turkey to make sure all seed recipients are notified.