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Costco frozen berries linked to hepatitis A outbreak

People in 5 states have been sickened with an outbreak of hepatitis A that appears to be linked to a frozen berry blend sold at Costco.

Costco berry outbreakEnlarge
A multi-state outbreak of hepatitis A appears to be linked to a frozen berry blend sold by Costco called The Townsend Farms Organic Anti-oxidant Blend Frozen Berry Mix. (TIM BOYLE/AFP/Getty Images)

An outbreak of hepatitis A that has sickened people in five states appears to be linked to a brand of frozen berries sold by bulk retailer Costco.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that at least 30 people in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and California contracted the virus.

The berries in the Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend were traced back to Townsend Farms' Oregon processing facility, which is being investigated by the FDA.

Bill Gaar, a lawyer for Townsend Farms, told the Washington Post that the brand's bag of frozen berries includes pomegranate seeds from Turkey, which are only used in the product associated with the outbreak.

"We do have very good records, we know where the (pomegranate seeds) came from, we’re looking into who the broker is and we’re sourcing it back up the food chain to get to it," Gaar said.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious virus that can cause liver infections. The symptoms include fatigue, abdominal pain, jaundice, abnormal liver tests, dark urine and pale stool.

Vaccinations can prevent the illness, even when taken within two weeks of exposure to the virus.

Townsend Farms said it believes that Costco was the only retailer that bought the tainted berries. One major concern is that small businesses may have bought the berries in bulk for use in smoothies, desserts or juices.

Costco has pulled the product from shelves and is notifying all customers who bought the product since late February.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/health/130601/costco-frozen-berries-linked-hepatitis-outbreak