A Hepatitis A outbreak across five states traced to an organic frozen berry mix sold at Costco left thirty people have been infected, and nine of them hospitalized.
And health officials are bracing for more cases if cafes and restaurants that bought the frozen blend used it to make smoothies, frozen bar drinks and other desserts for customers.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have linked the reported illnesses to Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend, a mix of berries and pomegranate seeds produced by Townsend Farms in Oregon.
The first victim got sick on April 29 with the most recent case reported on May 17, although USA Today reports more are expected.
The victims, aged between 25 and 71 years old, live in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and California.
About 11 of 17 of those infected said they bought the berry mix at Costco, according to CNN.
A Costco spokesman said that the company has removed the product from stores and is attempting to contact members who purchased the product in recent months.
Townsend Farms lawyer Bill Gaar said the frozen organic blend bag included pomegranate seeds sourced from Turkey, and were 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,” Bill Gaar
He said Townsend Farms believes Costco is the only customer who bought the product but are checking to see if any other retailers also sold it.
CNN reports state health departments, the FDA and the CDC are investigating, after notifying Townsend Farms on Thursday and sending investigators to the Fairview farm.
Hepatitis A is a highly infectious disease which inflames the liver, and is usually transmitted via contaminated food or water, or by someone who is infected.
The Mayo Clinic website states: “Mild cases of Hepatitis A don’t require treatment, and most people who are infected recover completely with no permanent liver damage.”
However, the World Health Organization (WHO) says severe infection can lead to liver failure and death, with about 1.4 million cases of Hepatitis A annually worldwide.