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.
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
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.
Investigating the horrifying bacteria hidden in restaurants’ most unlikely places, Anderson Cooper has revealed the top three dirtiest culprits are beverage lemons, lettuce wedges and the condiment racks found on tables.
“I get self conscious with the salt things,” Anderson Cooper said.
“How many people with dirty hands and snotty noses have been playing with the salt on the condiments rack? And I doubt they clean it.”
Howard Cannon, a restaurant consultant for insurance companies investigating claims of food poisoning, replied: “They’ll clean it, but they’ll take a wet towel and rub the top of it which makes flies attracted to it, because it brings residue from other things onto it.”
“A fly lands on top of the condiment dispensers, and what do you think the fly is doing there? Laying eggs,” he added.
“Eggs drop into the condiments, which gives the little babies something to eat.”
Anderson Cooper visibly cringes, and asks about the lemon wedges offered with beverages in bars, restaurants, and even on planes.
“The outside of the lemon doesn’t get washed,” said Howard Cannon.
“The wedges are cut well in advance for high volume, and they’ll squeeze the lemon into the water, rub it around the edge of the glass.
“It’s just moving bacteria from lemon into the water,” he said.
Restaurants’ horrifying hidden germs revealed by Anderson Cooper
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 76 million cases of food poisoning were recorded last year, and 3,000 were fatal.
Surprisingly, iceberg lettuce is a top germ trap.
“Restaurants let it sit at room temperature because it’s busy,” Howard Cannon said.
“They clean the outside of the lettuce, but if you look at the inside, it’s porous and it never gets cleaned.
“You order, you get your dressing, also sitting at room temperature, with bacteria growing on all of it. Then you move the bacteria from the dressing onto the bacteria on lettuce; you go home, and a few hours later you’re sick.”
Anderson Cooper also investigated the dangers found at restaurant indoor play areas for children.
After Erin Carr-Jordan took her toddler to a McDonald’s playground, she said she was shocked and appalled at the amount of old food, trash and excess dirt hiding in the playground’s cracks and corners.
She decided to swab the areas and run lab tests, which showed traces of meningitis and gonorrhea.
Now the executive director of Play Safe, the mother has taken her study to over 20 states and more than 70 locations.
Erin Carr-Jordan explained: “What we’ve found is beyond concern… the bacteria problems can cause illness, infection, and potentially death.”