Frozen berries linked to three new hepatitis A cases were originally cleared by company testing before they went out for sale last October, Australia’s food safety agency says.
The 300 gram bags of Creative Gourmet Mixed Berries are being re-tested after being linked to Hepatitis A cases in Victoria, South Australia and Queensland.
Food Standards Australia-New Zealand (FSANZ) chief executive Glen Neal said it was concerning the original tests failed to pick up a problem, but the links to hepatitis appeared to be limited to the small batch of bags in question.
“There is certainly no evidence to suggest that any other berries are involved, or indeed that there is an ongoing problem here,” he said.
The berries were sourced from Canada and China and imported in February 2015.
In February 2015 dozens of people contracted hepatitis A after eating frozen berries made by the Nanna and Creative Gourmet brands, then-owned by Patties Foods.
The berries were imported from China but packaged in Australia. Patties later sold Creative Gourmet to Entyce Food Ingredients.
“Understandably people will be concerned about this [latest incident] and it does seem like ‘here we go again’,” Mr Neal said.
“But I would say that the berries involved in this particular recall were imported in February 2015, just a few days before the prior incident occurred.
“The company did take the right steps in this incident by testing them before releasing them for sale, but it does appear that the testing has proven not to be 100 per cent effective.”
The Federal Government overhauled Australia’s biosecurity laws in May 2015.
Mr Neal said the berries involved in the latest recall were imported prior to the current imported food requirements being put in place.
“Since those imported food requirements have been in place, administered by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, there have been no further incidents of berries imported since that time,” he said.
New legislation to further reform Australia’s food testing powers was introduced to Parliament this week, following a review of the current regulatory system.
The batch involved in the latest recall has an expiry date of January 2021.