June 19, 2024

Costco Townsend Farms Hepatitis A Outbreak: Imported Foods Involved in Outbreaks

The Hepatitis A outbreak associated with the Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Frozen Berry Blend sold at Costco stores has sickened at least 34 people in the U.S. The attorney for Townsend Farms has stated that the pomegranate seeds in the mix, imported from Turkey, are most likely responsible for the virus. How many imported foods have been responsible for foodborne illness outbreaks in this country in the last few years?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that outbreaks linked to imported foods are increasing. Other countries have looser regulations than our government, and Americans are eating many more imported foods. Almost half of the outbreaks from 2005 to 2010 were caused by implicated foods from areas that previously had not been associated with outbreaks. And imported foods are usually distributed across the entire country, so more people are affected.

The government states that almost 16% of the food eaten in the United States is imported from another country. Almost 84% of the fish we eat comes from outside our borders. In addition, 32% of the fruit and nuts we eat are imported; that number can rise to 60% depending on the time of year. During the period of 2005 to 2010, imported foods were associated with 39 outbreaks that caused 2,348 illnesses.

Dr. Hannah Gould, an epidemiologist at the CDC, said that findings underestimate the true number of outbreaks linked to imported foods because the origin of many foods causing outbreaks is not known or is not reported. “We need better – and more – information about what foods are causing outbreaks and where those foods are coming from,” she said.

Just last year, there were three large outbreaks linked to imported foods. The raw tuna that caused a massive Salmonella Nchanga and Bareilly outbreak was imported from India. A Salmonella Braenderup outbreak was linked to mangoes imported from Mexico. A Listeria monocytogenes outbreak was linked to ricotta salata imported from Italy. And there were dozens of recalls of potentially contaminated imported foods.

For information on what you can do about the current Hepatitis A outbreak, please see What You Can Do. In addition, we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions about this particular outbreak.

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