Four more hepatitis A cases linked to Nanna's frozen berries

21 Feb, 2015 03:48 PM
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AFR. Frozen Raspberries for story about traces of hepatitis a being found in patties frozen berries which come from china. photographed on the 20th of February 2015
AFR. Frozen Raspberries for story about traces of hepatitis a being found in patties frozen berries which come from china. photographed on the 20th of February 2015

Health authorities have confirmed four new cases of hepatitis A linked to frozen berries, bringing the number of people infected in the outbreak to 18.

In NSW, two people, aged 65 and 73, have been diagnosed with the illness while two Queensland cases involve a 25-year-old and a 54-year-old.

The 18 people are believed to have contracted hepatitis A from eating Patties Foods' Nanna's frozen mixed berries. Seven are in NSW, seven in Queensland, three in Victoria and one in Western Australia.

The federal Department of Health said the disease was not life-threatening and most people recovered with rest and fluids.

It may, however, cause severe illness in older people, those with chronic liver disease and those who have poor immune systems.

"Of those who catch hepatitis A, not all will develop all of the symptoms," a department spokeswoman said. "Many will have no symptoms at all with children most likely to have a mild illness so they may not even be recognised as hepatitis A cases.

"Hepatitis A is a nationally notifiable disease so we know how many confirmed cases there are and by the end of February last year there were 65 cases, without any suspected outbreak.

"This compares to the numbers of cases today of 36 cases."

Hepatitis A is passed through contact with material that has been contaminated with faeces from an infected person.

Patties Foods have recalled their Nanna's mixed berries products as well as their Creative Gourmet's mixed berries and Nanna's raspberries packs as a precaution.

The berries were grown in Chile and China before being packaged at a Chinese factory, according to the department.

The Department of Agriculture is speaking to other food companies which have imported Chinese berries and has also requested a review of frozen berries from Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ).

Patties Foods maintained samples of the berry products were tested four times using Australian food standards and they have also been working with the FSANZ to keep the public informed of their investigations.

Its chief executive Steven Chaur said there was still no "firm association [of hepatitis A] with our recalled products".

"Many Chinese food production facilities also supply European and Japanese food markets, and they also have extremely strict hygiene and quality standards," he said in a press release.

"Despite public misconceptions, many Chinese food production facilities are at least as hygienic as those in Australia and operate to similar regulatory compliance regimes." Food labelling in spotlight

The outbreak has highlighted concerns about country-of-origin labelling on food.

Consumer group Choice has tested 55 packs of frozen mixed fruits and mixed vegetables and found nearly half the labels on the packs had "vague" or "unhelpful" information.

Choice said some of the worst claims included "Packed in New Zealand", "Packed in Chile from imported and local ingredients" and "Processed in Belgium".

It also found 12 per cent of its 700 members were not able to understand the meaning of "Made in Australia".

"These claims offer very little information about a product's origin and are largely meaningless to consumers," Choice spokesman Tom Godfrey said.

"Consumers deserve to know where their food comes from which is why we have launched a petition calling on the Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, to take action on country of origin labelling."

Mr Joyce has supported changes to the country-of-origin labelling laws to stop manufacturers from using "sneaky terms" to "earn a premium" on cheaply made products.

Under current laws, the term "made from Australian and imported ingredients" is common, providing no detail on the exact origins of all the ingredients in a product or where it was packaged.

"There is a good way that you can avoid all of this and that is to make sure you eat Australian product," Mr Joyce said on Wednesday.

"I want to make sure I do everything in my power to say to people your safest food is your domestic food. That is why you pay a premium for Australian product. It is clean, green and healthy."

Mr Joyce's spokesman confirmed a white paper on the potential legislation changes is due to go before the cabinet.

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COMMENTS

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Why do they forget the small producers they are the backbone of the industry. What. Did this
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Good these guys will be able to help the farmers they are treating like second class peasants.
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Lets' hope Troy Grant doesn't Delforce's website or it will be yet another NSW