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Hepatitis A: Frozen Berries, Possible Sources

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has coordinated an investigation to trace food items connected with a multinational outbreak of hepatitis A. Since January 2013, more than 1440 hepatitis A cases have been reported in 12 European countries, with 331 cases confirmed by genotyping.

Laboratory testing of food items and interviews with affected people identified consumption of mixed frozen berries as the source of the outbreak. Bulgarian blackberries and Polish red currants have been identified as the most common ingredient in the contaminated lots and in the food consumed by affected people. No single point source of contamination could be identified, but 12 food operators were identified that were linked to cases and lots in 5 of the affected countries. Further investigations at the local level are needed to identify where the suspect berries were harvested and the conditions at these harvest or production sites.

In May 2013, Germany reported cases of hepatitis A virus (HAV) genotype IA infection in persons with a travel history, and Italy reported a national increase in the number of HAV cases and declared an outbreak. Confirmed cases (outbreak strain have been reported in Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Norway, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and the United Kingdom (331 in total). HAV contamination was detected in frozen mixed berries (14 lots) and mixed berry cakes/pastries (2 lots) in Italy, France and Norway. In Ireland, the Netherlands and Sweden, analysis of food histories and questionnaires identified suspect berries and berry products consumed by confirmed cases. Tracing began with 38 lots/cases from Italy, Ireland and the Netherlands; an additional 5 lots/cases were added from France, Norway and Sweden in spring 2014.

Vaccination is recommended to prevent travellers from catching Hepatitis A.

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