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More victims of berry virus

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Raspberries appear to be the common link in a hepatitis A scare in which nine Australians have tested positive.

Victorian company Patties Foods has extended its national recall to include Nanna’s Raspberries 1kg packs on Tuesday. Managing director Steven Chaur says the raspberry supplier is no longer used by the company and that the recall is a precautionary measure.

“Investigations through our supply chain have identified a specific source of raspberries as a potential common link to the possible safety issues raised by health authorities,” he said.

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Other products on the nationwide recall list are Nanna’s Frozen Mixed Berries 1kg packs, and Patties’ 300g and 500g packs of Creative Gourmet Mixed Berries.

Nine Australians have now tested positive to hepatitis A, with four confirmed cases in Queensland, three from Victoria and two from NSW.

While hepatitis A typically poses a very low risk to the blood supply, Red Cross Blood Service spokesman Shaun Inguanzo says the situation is being closely monitored and people who have eaten the berries will be banned from donating for two months.

He said hepatitis A is almost exclusively spread by ingesting faecal-contaminated food.

“As a purely precautionary matter, the Blood Service is asking donors who consumed Nannas Frozen Mixed Berries or Creative Gourmet Mixed Berries and then gave blood either on or after 1 November 2014 to contact us on 13 14 95,” Mr Inguanzo told AAP on Tuesday.

AAP
One of the brands of berries possibly contaminated with faecal matter. Photo: AAP

The Blood Service screens blood donations for 70 diseases, but not hepatitis A due to its low risk.

Compensation lawyer Mark O’Connor says consumers should ignore advice to throw any berries they have purchased out because the product could become key evidence should they contract the virus.

“If someone has consumed some, I would suggest they hang on to them – put them in the freezer, mark them `poison’ or something so nobody else consumes any,” he said.

“If they become ill later on, then they will need to be able to prove that they have consumed the product in question and my experience with insurance companies is they won’t take your word for it.”

A Victorian health department spokesman said there were likely to be more cases of hepatitis A.

“There will be other cases as people learn about the symptoms and perhaps think they may fit that category.

“Given the very broad spread of this product, its popularity and its very long shelf life, it’s not unexpected that we will get other cases.”

Hepatitis A is a viral disease that affects the liver.

Symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, fatigue and jaundice.

It has an incubation period of up to 50 days.

An industry spokesman told The New Daily he was “amazed” that consumers buy frozen berries from overseas, given the unsanitary conditions.

“Don’t eat it,” said Australian Blueberry Growers Association president Greg McCulloch.

“They might think it’s just a germ or something, but hepatitis A is actually a germ in s**t, which might make them think twice.”

– with AAP

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