Hep A berries highlights importance of hygiene in food manufacturing

Posted on 16 Feb 2015 by Tim Brown

It is likely that a recent outbreak of hepatitis A in Australia, linked to a brand of imported mixed berries, was due to low hygiene standards in a Chinese factory or a potentially contaminated water supply.

The contamination incident being linked to 1kg packets of Nanna’s Frozen Mixed Berries has so far affected nine people across Australia — three in Victoria, four in Queensland and two in New South Wales.

It is likely that the virus was spread by an infected worker at the plant that did not wash their hands properly and then handled the product. Or, as the virus is excreted in fecal matter, it is possible that water at the plant was contaminated with sewage that contained the hepatitis A virus.

The virulent nature of hepatitis A means that the virus can survive whilst frozen and begin replicating again once thawed.

Victorian company Patties Foods, which imports the berries, has recalled all 1kg bags of Nanna’s Frozen Mixed Berries but also announced on Sunday it had also recalled all 300g and 500g packs of Creative Gourmet Mixed Berries too.

“We have decided that all our frozen Mixed Berries should be recalled until such time as we receive the results of further laboratory tests,” Patties Foods CEO Steven Chaur said.

Consumers have been told not to eat fruit from the Nanna’s one-kilogram packets with best-before dates up to and including November 22, 2016.

People have also been told not to consume fruit from the Creative Gourmet 300 gram packets with best-before dates up to and including December 10, 2017, and 500 gram packets with best-before dates up to October 6, 2017.

The berries, grown in China and Chile, had previously been repackaged by Patties Foods in Bairnsdale in regional Victoria.

In December, Patties Foods began accepting berry products that had been washed and packaged at the supplier’s factory in China’s Shandong province.

Concerned consumers in Australia can call the company on 1800 650 069.