Federal health officials suspect that frozen fruit smoothie mixes sold exclusively at Costco Stores may be the source of a hepatitis A outbreak that has sickened at least 30 people in five states.
The FDA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning on May 31, indicating that most of the people linked to an acute hepatitis A outbreak have reported that they drank Costco fruit smoothies before becoming sick
Costco has issued a recall for Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Fruit Blend; removing the frozen smoothie product from shelves and sending notifications to any customers who purchased the blend.
According to the CDC, 11 of the 17 people it has interviewed to date consumed the frozen berry and pomegranate drinks. The victims have ranged in age from 25 to 71 years old and the onset of the illnesses occurred from April 20 through May 17. Nine of the victims required hospitalization. The illnesses have been reported in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, and California.
The CDC is advising consumers who purchased frozen fruit smoothie mix from Costco not to drink the product, and advises anyone who has consumed the recalled Costco frozen drinks to get a vaccination if they have never been vaccinated against Hepatitis A.
According to the CDC, a hepatitis A vaccination can be effective even up to two weeks after exposure. Anyone who has already had a hepatitis A vaccination is unlikely to contract the disease, the CDC advises.
Consumers who are not vaccinated and believe they have consumed the recalled drink should contact their healthcare provider if they show symptoms including:
- Yellow eyes or skin
- Abdominal pain
- Pale stools
- Dark urine
Hepatitis A is a liver disease resulting from a viral infection. This particular strain is not often seen in the U.S. and was linked to another outbreak in Europe this year that was also connected to frozen berries, as well as a 2012 outbreak in British Columbia linked to pomegranate seeds from Egypt.
The outbreak is still under investigation by the CDC, FDA and state health agencies.