Berries from China sold by supermarkets spread Hepatitis in Australia
'Hep-A Hits Home' by Rose Brennan The Courier-Mail, 17/2/2015

FOUR Queenslanders have been struck down by hepatitis A after eating contaminated frozen berries, and Queensland Health warns there may be more to come.

Two people from south Brisbane, one from north Brisbane and one from Cairns have contracted the disease after eating packaged, frozen berries that have now been recalled nationally.

It comes after three Victorians and one person from New South Wales became ill after eating from 1kg packets of Nanna's Frozen Mixed Berries.

More cases are expected across the country, with symptoms appearing up to 50 days after a person eats contaminated food.

Professor Peter Collignon, infectious diseases expert from the Australian National University, said a lot of the countries we import food from

"have waterways that are contaminated with sewage. They are not operating at the same standards as we have here," he said. "You don't want to have food that has been contaminated with human waste."

The four Queenslanders are recovering at home after falling ill in late January to early February, senior director of the Communicable Disease Unit for Queensland Health Dr Sonya Bennett said."It's a viral disease; there is no treatment other than supportive treatment."

If a person has eaten the contaminated berries they should see their doctor only if they show early signs of the virus such as fever,tiredness, abdominal pain and jaundice.

Dr Bennett said the chances of contracting hepatitis A from the berries were slim.

"The product will be contaminated invariably so it's only the small minority we would expect to be affected. The food product is distributed nationally so we wouldn't expect to see clustering, so the recall applies to the whole of the country."

Dr Bennett rejected that the outbreak of hepatitis A in the berries, sourced from China and Chile and manufactured in Victoria, meant food standards in Australia were weak.

"I think our food regulations are very strong. And that's illustrated by the fact this particular contaminated product has been picked up with so few cases and the way the food authorities worked with the company very quickly to recall that product and the company has done that on a voluntarily basis."

Hepatitis A is transmitted by the "faecal-oral" route and experts believe the berries may have been contaminated by food handlers who didn't wash their hands or contaminated water being used to wash the berries.

Creative Gourmet mixed berries 300g and 350g packets have also been recalled. A Department of Agriculture spokesman said high-risk foods, such as oysters from South-East Asian countries, were tested.

"All other imported food products are considered under surveillance — including frozen berries."