Frozen imported berries

Some recent cases of hepatitis A have been linked to eating frozen imported berries. Learn how to control the risks.

What is hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is an infectious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. The virus can survive freezing, freeze drying, and heat treatments of less than 85 degrees Celsius. It can also survive in an acid environment and in foods with a higher sugar content.

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The link between hepatitis A and frozen imported berries in NZ and overseas

A New Zealand outbreak of the hepatitis A infection in 2015 was linked to people eating imported frozen berries. A recall of the implicated berries was carried out.

Outbreaks of norovirus infection in Sweden and hepatitis A in Australia, the USA and Ireland, have also been linked to people eating imported frozen berries

These outbreaks show that there is an ongoing risk in the global imported frozen berry supply chain.

How could berries become contaminated?

Contamination with the hepatitis A virus could occur on the farm, through use of sewage-contaminated agricultural water or through contamination by infected workers.

Cross-contamination (spread of the infection) could occur:

  • post-harvest along the supply chain
  • through contact with contaminated surfaces of machines, equipment and facilities
  • through food handlers, during freezing, mixing and packaging processes.

Making berries safe

You can make frozen imported berries safe by:

  • bringing them to the boil for a short amount of time
  • cooking them at 85 degrees Celsius for at least 1 minute.

Preparing berries safely is particularly important when preparing foods that contain frozen berries like smoothies, and when serving them to vulnerable people – such as nursing home residents, young children or pregnant women.

Washing frozen berries will not remove the risk.

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