The International Company for Agricultural Production & Processing (ICAPP), based in Ramadan City, Egypt, is voluntarily recalling certain lots of its frozen strawberries in response to the ongoing investigation into a multistate outbreak of Hepatitis A in the United States.
The Food and Drug Administration’s recall announcement, dated Sunday, stated that the company’s action was taken in consultation with FDA because the Hepatitis A virus was detected in four lots of frozen strawberries ICAPP exported to the U.S.
The federal agency added that ICAPP is working closely with all of its distributors in this country to make sure that the recall is effective.
FDA issued an Import Alert for the company’s strawberries on Oct. 19, indicating that the frozen berries would not be admitted into the U.S. However, at the time the agency did not specifically connect the product to the Hepatitis A outbreak that has been linked to smoothies served at Tropical Smoothie Café outlets.
However, FDA’s latest update on the investigation, posted Oct. 20, notes the following: “Nearly all ill people interviewed report eating smoothies containing strawberries at Tropical Smoothie locations in a limited geographic area. Preliminary traceback information indicates that the frozen strawberries served in these Tropical Smoothie Café locations were imported from Egypt. Tropical Smoothie Café has stopped using these strawberries nationwide.”
As of Oct. 17, the Hepatitis A outbreak had sickened 134 people from nine states — Arkansas, California, Maryland, North Carolina, New York, Oregon, Virginia, Wisconsin and West Virginia — according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No deaths have been reported in connection with the outbreak, although 52 people have been hospitalized.
FDA noted in the Oct. 30 recall announcement that the lots of frozen Egyptian strawberries were all distributed for sale to, and use in, foodservice establishments nationwide and not for use in food products offered for retail sale to consumers.
Even so, the agency added that ICAPP was “issuing this news release publicly to help mitigate any possible risk to the public health and to fully ensure that all recalled products are recovered.”
“Although none of ICAPP’s own testing through an established surveillance program or through third party testing of retained samples has identified the presence of Hepatitis A in any of its products, ICAPP has decided to recall all frozen strawberries that it has imported into the United States since January 1, 2016 out of an abundance of caution,” according to the recall announcement.
No other ICAPP products, frozen or fresh, are covered by this voluntary recall, FDA added.
The recall announcement stated that the Egyptian company is conducting a comprehensive review of all of its operations and suppliers to make sure that the food it produces is safe.
For questions or more information about the recall, consumers may contact ICAPP by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Cairo local time, which is six hours ahead of EDT, at +201-541-1624.
Under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), FDA has mandatory recall authority, but the agency must first provide the responsible party with a chance to stop distribution and conduct a voluntary recall of the food item in question.
If the responsible party refuses to, or does not voluntarily, cease distribution or recall the food item within the time and in the manner prescribed by FDA, the agency may proceed with a mandatory recall.
Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that results from exposure to the Hepatitis A virus. It is usually transmitted by the fecal-oral route, either through person-to-person contact or through consumption of contaminated food or water.
It can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious illness lasting several months. Illness generally occurs within 15 to 50 days of exposure and includes fatigue, abdominal pain, jaundice, abnormal liver tests, dark urine and pale stool.
Hepatitis A vaccination can prevent illness if given within two weeks of exposure to a contaminated food. In rare cases, particularly for those who have a pre-existing severe illness or are immune-compromised, Hepatitis A infection can progress to liver failure.
Persons who may have consumed the recalled product should consult with their health care professional or local health department to determine if a vaccination is appropriate, and anyone with symptoms of Hepatitis A should contact their health care provider or a local health department immediately.
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