Frozen berries possibly contaminated with hepatitis A accidentally sold to public despite recall

Frozen berries possibly contaminated with hepatitis A accidentally sold to public despite recall
Photo credit: Pams

Frozen berries possibly contaminated with hepatitis A were sold to the public on Saturday despite a food safety recall.

In October last year, various Pams brand frozen berry products were recalled as a precaution because of a possible link to cases of hepatitis A.

However on Saturday, January 14, Foodstuffs South Island accidentally sold these berries from two of its stores, with packages unaccounted for at another four.

"Foodstuffs South Island Hornby Distribution Centre, in error, released 478 bags of Pams Mixed Berries following the previous recall on 4 October 2022," New Zealand Food Safety (NZFS) deputy director-general Vincent Arbuckle said in a statement on Sunday.

"Foodstuffs South Island has identified and removed most of those bags before consumers were able to buy them. However six bags have already been sold and another four are unaccounted for."

The product affected is the Pams Mixed Berries (500g) with a best before date of August 14, 2024.

It was potentially available in the following South Island stores:

  • Ashburton New World
  • Hornby Pak'nSave
  • Three Parks New World, Wanaka
  • Wainoni Pak'nSave, Christchurch.

Consumers who bought frozen berries from these stores are asked to check their freezers for the recalled product.

"Consumers, especially those with chronic liver damage, the elderly and pregnant people, should not eat frozen berries raw. Bringing them to the boil will make them safe to eat, or they can be returned to the place of purchase for a full refund," Arbuckle said.

"New Zealand Food Safety is disappointed to be informed of this error given the hepatitis A outbreak was under control. We will investigate this error and ensure Foodstuffs South Island put in place appropriate measures to prevent a reoccurrence."

Symptoms of hepatitis A

If you've caught hepatitis A, it will take 15 to 50 days for the symptoms to develop.

Early symptoms of hepatitis A infection can be mistaken for the flu. The usual symptoms are nausea and stomach pain, with jaundice (yellow skin) appearing in a few days. Some people, especially children, may have no symptoms at all.

As the illness develops, the symptoms are:

  • fever
  • jaundice (yellow discolouration of the eyes and/or skin)
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • abdominal discomfort
  • malaise (fatigue, feeling tired)
  • dark urine.

NZFS' advice

  • Briefly boil frozen berries before eating them, or if you have a thermometer at home, ensure cooking temperatures exceed 85C for one minute. Heated berries can be safely refrozen for later use.
  • If you microwave berries, you should stir at halfway through the cooking process to make sure they are cooked through. Microwave settings will vary, the important thing is to ensure the berries reach boiling.
  • Wash your hands before eating and preparing food.