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RAW: Hepatitus A outbreak traced to Townsend Farms berry blend sickens several in Reno, California

June 3, 2013

A frozen berry product called Townsend Farms Organic Anti-oxidant Blend and sold at many Eastern Sierra stores, including Costco, is at the heart of a Hepatitus A outbreak affecting six victims in California and two in Reno.

So far, there have been no outbreaks in the Eastern Sierra according to local health officials.

According to a Mono County Public Health Department new release, "There is an outbreak of 30 cases of hepatitis A in five Western states including California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Arizona. State and local health departments, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are investigating this outbreak. There have been six cases in five California counties, and two in Reno, but none so far in the Eastern Sierra.

"These people are believed to have gotten sick after eating Townsend Farms Organic Anti-oxidant Blend, a frozen berry product." the news release states.

"This product is sold at many stores, including Costco.

"Virtually all “nearby” Costco stores are involved, including Lancaster, Carson City, and Reno has pulled this frozen berry product from its store shelves," according to the news release.

"Costco clarified that the Townsend berry blend was not used for smoothies sold at the store snack bars. A pre-made blend from different source is used for smoothies.

"The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has received several calls concerning a variety of berry products including those packaged under the Townsend brand," the news release states. "They have confirmed with FDA that the initial investigation is focused only on labeled Townsend Organic Antioxidant blend frozen berries containing dark tart cherries, blueberries, pomegranate arils, red raspberries and strawberries. The blend contains ingredients from U.S., Chile, Argentina and Turkey and has an item # of 595820.

"There have been no specific “Best if Used by Dates” identified; however, the period of interest is February to present.

It is important for people to take steps to protect their health, the news release state, including taking the steps noted below:

• You should throw away any Townsend Farms Organic Anti-oxidant Blend frozen berry product you have in your freezer or refrigerator.
• If you have eaten any Townsend Farms Organic Anti-oxidant Blend in the last two weeks, talk to a health care provider about getting the hepatitis A vaccine.
• Most children are vaccinated against hepatitis A, so they are already protected. If you have had the vaccine, you are protected.
• It is important for persons who have serious medical conditions, especially liver disease or diseases affecting the immune system, to get vaccinated.

You should talk with a health care provider if you have eaten the frozen berry product.
• If you do not get the hepatitis A vaccine within two weeks of eating the frozen berry product hepatitis A is not likely to be prevented. Hepatitis A vaccine may prevent disease -- only if given within a two week time period of eating the frozen berry product.
• If you ate the frozen berry product more than two weeks ago, look for symptoms of hepatitis. Not everyone gets symptoms. If symptom do appear, they may include:
o Fever, Fatigue, Loss of appetite, Nausea, Vomiting, Abdominal pain, Dark urine, Clay-colored Bowel Movements, Joint pain, or Jaundice (a yellowing of the skin or eyes)

"Following is the actual Costco Food Safety Alert:

"The CDC and the state of Colorado have announced an active investigation of Hepatitis A that may be associated with the "Townsend Farms Anti-Oxidant Blend" (a frozen berry blend) that you purchased between February 15, 2013 and May 30, 2013.

"Please discontinue use of the berry blend and return any remaining to Costco for a full refund.

"If you are feeling any ill effects please contact your health care provider or your local health department.

"This is an active investigation and more information will be forth coming. Please review the CDC web site on this issue at http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/Outbreaks/2013/A1b-03-31/index.html or the FDA web site at http://www.fda.gov/Food/RecallsOutbreaksEmergencies/Outbreaks/ucm354698.htm

"We will follow up this phone message with a letter with updated information as we receive it.

"We are very sorry for any inconvenience this issue may cause."

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