Yesterday, I went to blend a smoothie—my usual combination of bananas, pineapple, mango, dragon fruit, and strawberries—but, immediately after adding the fresh strawberries to the blender, I thought better of it and began to pluck them out one by one.
“Mom, when did I get my hep A vaccination?” I shouted from the kitchen.
“Probably when you were a baby, I don’t know. Why?” she asked me. Fair—I don’t normally ask for my medical records at 9:30pm on a holiday.
My concern was real—fresh, organic strawberries, just like the ones I was adding to my blender, are currently being recalled from numerous retailers after being linked to possible Hepatitis A contamination. The list of national retailers includes, but is not limited to, Aldi, HEB, Kroger, Safeway, Sprouts Farmers Market, Trader Joe’s, Walmart, Weis Markets, and WinCo Foods.
When we hear about produce recalls, normally we think of salmonella or listeria, right? Recalls are always scary, but Hepatitis A feels particularly alarming because it’s so rare. So far, at least 17 hepatitis cases have been reported in California, Minnesota, and North Dakota, including 12 hospitalizations, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Upon further investigation, all of the cases reported purchasing fresh, organic strawberries (hence the recall) and occurred between March 28 and April 30.
What Is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A—sometimes abbreviated to Hep A—is a highly contagious liver infection that generally has short-term symptoms like yellow skin or eyes, lack of appetite, upset stomach, vomiting, stomach pain, fever, and diarrhea. While there is no cure for Hepatitis A, most cases disappear within a few weeks to a couple of months. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that the best way to reduce your risk of infection is by getting the hepatitis A vaccination.
The CDC does not recommend booster shots for Hepatitis A in healthy adults who received the vaccine as an infant (most vaccinations are administered in children between 12 and 24 months). If you’ve consumed fresh strawberries in the last two weeks and have not been vaccinated against Hepatitis A, the FDA recommends consulting with a healthcare professional to determine if post-exposure prophylaxis (an emergency HIV medication) is needed.
If you have fresh, organic strawberries in your fridge, throw them out or return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. And if you’re not sure whether or not your berries are safe to eat, I’d say throw ‘em out.
The timing couldn’t be worse—it’s nearly peak strawberry season! Let us know if you were impacted by the latest recall of fresh strawberries.