On October 30, an Egyptian company recalled all frozen strawberries that were imported to the United States this year after they tested positive for hepatitis A.
The recall was issued by the International Company for Agriculture Production & Processing (ICAPP), an company that imports strawberries for restaurants and food service in the United States.
The FDA has been investigating an outbreak of hepatitis A that infected at least 134 people since this summer. Nearly everyone got sick after eating at Tropical Smoothie Café.
On October 20, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported illnesses in the following nine states: Arkansas (1), California (1), Maryland (12), New York (3), North Carolina (1), Oregon (1), Virginia (107), West Virginia (7), and Wisconsin (1).
Egypt has only been allowed to import strawberries to the U.S. since February 2013. The FDA suspended imports of ICAPP strawberries on October 19, 2016.
In recent years, frozen berries from North Africa and the Middle East have been linked to several outbreaks of hepatitis A. The outbreaks are easy to trace because they involve a strain of the virus that is widespread in those regions, but rare elsewhere.
In Canada, an outbreak involving that strain of hepatitis A was traced to frozen pomegranates from Egypt in 2012. In Europe, over 100 people were infected with hepatitis A after eating frozen strawberries from Egypt or Morocco in 2013.
In June 2013, Costco recalled Townsend Farms frozen berries after 132 people in 10 states were infected with hepatitis A after eating frozen pomegranate seeds from Turkey.
Hepatitis A is a highly-contagious virus that spreads in feces. Large outbreaks can occur when sewage-contaminated water is sprayed on raw food. It takes 15-50 days for symptoms to appear. When they do, victims develop liver inflammation and may suffer months of fatigue, jaundice, nausea, and other symptoms.