Officials with the Public Health Agency of Canada estimate that about 1,200 Canadians, mostly in British Columbia and Alberta, bought a blend of frozen berries linked to a hepatitis A outbreak that has hit eight U.S. states.

The U.S. Centre for Disease Control said that as of Monday 87 people have been diagnosed with acute hepatitis A infections that could be linked to eating the frozen berry blend.

Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend frozen berry and pomegranate mix was sold in the U.S. at Costco stores. It was also sold under the name Harris Teeter Organic Antioxidant Berry Blend at Harris Teeter stores.

The onset of reported illnesses range from March 16 to June 1, and no one has died from the infections. No illnesses linked to products sold at Harris Teeter stores have been reported.

Last week, the manufacturer, Townsend Farms, Inc., of Fairview, Ore., voluntarily recalled certain lots of its frozen berry blends.

None of the products were sold in Canada, but a number of Canadians bought the affected products at U.S. Costco stores, the PHAC said.

Strain same as 2012 B.C. outbreak

The CDC noted that the strain of hepatitis A that the infections all had in common is genotype 1B, which is rarely found in the Americas, but circulates in North Africa and the Middle East.

The same genotype was identified in a 2012 hepatitis outbreak in B.C. that was thought to be related to a frozen berry blend containing pomegranate seeds from Egypt. The CDC said the recalled Townsend berry and pomegranate mix had ingredients that were sourced from the U.S., Argentina, Chile and Turkey.

Hep A symptoms

Hepatitis A symptoms include:

  • Fatigue.
  • Jaundice.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Stomach pain.
  • Dark urine.

The PHAC said Monday it has not received reports of recent hepatitis A diagnoses in Canada that match the strain identified in the U.S. outbreak.

It said the risk to Canadians in Canada is low at this time, but advises anyone who bought the berry mix not to eat it or to consult a doctor if it has been eaten.

Hepatitis A, a liver disease, can cause mild to severe illness lasting weeks to months. The most common hepatitis A symptoms include fatigue and jaundice, but many who are infected do not feel ill and remain unaware of their infection.

A vaccine can be used to prevent a hepatitis A infection if it is given within 14 days of being exposed to the virus, the PHAC said.

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Townsend Farms, Inc. of Fairview, Oregon, initiated a recall of certain lots of its frozen Organic Antioxidant Blend, which was sold under two labels at U.S. Costco stores. Not pictured: Harris Teeter-branded label. (FDA.gov)