Virginia’s health department is warning customers who consumed smoothies at Tropical Smoothie Café locations across the state that they may be at risk of being exposed to hepatitis A.
The Virginia Department of Health said they are investigating a cluster of hepatitis A cases that have been causing illnesses and found that this strain has previously been associated to past outbreaks from frozen strawberries from Egypt.
In a news release, the Virginia Department of Health said in part,
“Individuals who consumed a smoothie from a Tropical Smoothie Cafe in Virginia that contained frozen strawberries, on August 5, 6, 7 or 8, 2016, may still benefit from vaccine or immune globulin to prevent hepatitis A. (Vaccine or immune globulin administered within two weeks of exposure to hepatitis A virus is effective at preventing the disease.) If you have had hepatitis A or have been vaccinated for hepatitis A, you are already immune and therefore not at risk for getting the disease. Anyone who consumed a smoothie after the frozen strawberries were removed from restaurants is not thought to be at risk for hepatitis A.”
Tropical Smoothie Café, which has 96 restaurant locations in Virginia, said on its website about the foodborne illness concern:
“Tropical Smoothie Cafe was notified by the Virginia Department of Health about several foodborne illnesses in the state linked to frozen strawberries sourced from Egypt. Our cafes and their food handling practices have not been implicated in any way – the health department believes this is a single product issue (strawberries) sourced from Egypt.
“Egyptian strawberries represent a fraction of our overall strawberries purchased, and were predominantly distributed to stores in the Virginia market. Today, our strawberries are primarily sourced from Mexico and California.
“However, in an abundance of caution, we voluntarily pulled all strawberries sourced from Egypt from every cafe in our system, not only the Virginia cafes.
“Our primary concern is for the safety and well-being of our guests and crew members and we will continue to cooperate with the health authorities.”
The health department said anyone who has consumed a smoothie with frozen strawberries within in the last 50 days is advised to watch out for symptoms of hepatitis A, which may include jaundice, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine and light-colored stools. Exposure to the virus can occur through direct contact with another person with the infection or consuming food or drink contaminated with the virus.
For more information about hepatitis A, go to http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/epidemiology/epidemiology-fact-sheets/hepatitis-a/