A hepatitis A outbreak may be linked to certain brands of frozen organic strawberries that are sold nationwide at retailers including Trader Joe's and Costco, according to the U.S. Federal Drug Administration, which announced a recall of the products this week.
Five people have been sickened with confirmed or probable cases, including two hospitalized, in the outbreak, the FDA said Friday. Three confirmed and two probable cases were reported in Washington state.
In all cases, people reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention having eaten frozen organic strawberries that were ultimately determined to have been imported from farms in Baja California, Mexico, last year, and sold to a variety of retailers under multiple brand names.
"Additionally, the strain of hepatitis A virus causing illnesses this year is genetically identical to the strain that caused the outbreak of hepatitis A virus infections in 2022, which was linked to fresh organic strawberries imported from Baja California, Mexico, and sold at various retailers," the FDA said.
In response to the ongoing investigation, California Splendor and Scenic Fruit this week have voluntarily recalled certain lots of frozen strawberries, the FDA said.
California Splendor has recalled 4-lb. bags of Kirkland Signature Frozen Organic Whole Strawberries that were sold at Costco stores in Los Angeles and Hawaii, and at two San Diego business centers.
Scenic Fruit has recalled certain frozen organic strawberries sold to Costco, Aldi, KeHE, Vital Choice Seafood and PCC Community Markets in specific states, as well as frozen organic tropical blend sold to Trader Joe's nationwide.
Information on the products impacted in both recalls can be found here.
Both companies noted in their recall announcements that hepatitis A has not been detected on the products but "out of an abundance of caution" consumers should stop consuming the recalled items and return them to their local store for a refund. The companies said they have ceased production and distribution of the affected products amid the investigation into the outbreak.
"As this investigation is ongoing, additional products may be included," the FDA said.
Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease caused by exposure to the hepatitis A virus. Symptoms typically occur within 15 to 20 days of exposure after eating or drinking contaminated food or water and include fatigue, abdominal pain, jaundice, abnormal liver tests, dark urine and pale stool.
Illness can last from a few weeks to several months if serious. In rare cases, hepatitis A infection can progress to liver failure -- with those who have a pre-existing severe illness or are immune-compromised most at-risk.
Individuals who consumed the recalled frozen organic strawberries in the past two weeks who have not been vaccinated against hepatitis A or believe they have symptoms of a hepatitis A virus infection should contact a healthcare professional, the FDA said.