At least seven people in New South Wales have been diagnosed with hepatitis A after eating frozen pomegranate seeds from Coles supermarkets.
NSW Health has issued a warning to consumers, urging anyone who has purchased the Creative Gourmet product to dispose of it immediately.
The outbreak has so far affected seven people in Sydney, the NSW Central Coast and Wollongong with the health department working with other states and territories to determine if there are other cases.
It’s not the first time Creative Gourmet frozen fruit product has been linked to hepatitis A.
The company recalled its nationally sold frozen Creative Gourmet mixed berries in February 2015 and again in June 2017 to test if imported berries had caused hepatitis A outbreaks.
NSW Health director of communicable diseases Dr Vicky Sheppeard said the department was working to confirm if the infections could be definitely linked with the Creative Gourmet frozen pomegranate product, which are sold only in Coles.
Dr Sheppeard said symptoms of the hepatitis A virus take anywhere from 15 to 50 days to develop and the virus can spread via contaminated food or poor hygiene.
She said those who had consumed the product in the last two weeks may benefit from a hepatitis A vaccination if not already protected.
Creative Gourmet’s parent company, Entyce Food Ingredients, announced a “precautionary recall” of a “relatively small batch” of Creative Gourmet ‘Frozen Pomegranate Arils’ with a “best before” date up to and including March 21, 2020.
In a statement issued on Saturday the supplier said the “voluntary recall” was an exercise in “abundant caution”, stressing it was an “isolated” incident and had no bearing on other Creative Gourmet products.
“The recall affects less than one per cent of the Creative Gourmet fruit sold annually in Australia,” the company said, making no mention of the hepatitis A outbreak
Coles has issued an apology to those affected by the virus outbreak.
“Customers can return the product to Coles supermarkets for a full refund,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
“Any consumers concerned about their health should seek medical advice.”
Symptoms of the hepatitis A virus can include nausea, vomiting, fever, yellowing of the skin, dark urine and pale stools.
“People who have eaten the frozen pomegranate should consult their local doctor as early as possible should symptoms appear,” Dr Sheppeard said.
“In most people the symptoms resolve after a few weeks with supportive treatment, mainly rest and fluids.”
Australian grown pomegranate, both fresh and frozen, has not been affected by the hepatitis A outbreaks.