For Immediate Release: June 29, 2013
Media Inquiries: Pat El-Hinnawy, 301-796-4763, Patricia.El-Hinnawy@fda.hhs.gov
Consumer Inquiries: 1-888-INFO-FDA
FDA to detain pomegranate seeds offered for import from Goknur of Turkey
Company’s pomegranate seeds may contain Hepatitis A virus
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will detain shipments of pomegranate seeds from Goknur Gida Maddeleri Ithalat Ihracat Tic [Goknur Foodstuffs Import Export Trading] of Turkey when they are offered for import into the United States.
This action results from an investigation by the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state and local health authorities into a multi-state outbreak of Hepatitis A illnesses associated with Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend, a frozen food blend containing pomegranate seed mix.
By combining information gained from the FDA’s traceback and traceforward investigations and the CDC’s epidemiological investigation, the FDA and CDC have determined that the most likely vehicle for the Hepatitis A virus appears to be a common shipment of pomegranate seeds from Goknur used by Townsend Farms to make the Townsend Farms and Harris Teeter Organic Antioxidant Blends that were recalled in June. These seeds were also used by Scenic Fruit Company to make their recently recalled Woodstock Frozen Organic Pomegranate Kernels.
“This outbreak highlights the food safety challenge posed by today’s global food system,” said Michael R. Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. “The presence in a single product of multiple ingredients from multiple countries compounds the difficulty of finding the cause of an illness outbreak. The Hepatitis A outbreak shows how we have improved our ability to investigate and respond to outbreaks, but also why we are working to build a food safety system that more effectively prevents them.”
The FDA reviewed records and determined that the pomegranate seeds from this shipment were the only ingredient common to all of the recalled Townsend Farms and Harris Teeter Organic Antioxidant Blend.
FDA will be working with the firms that have distributed pomegranate seeds from this shipment from Turkey to help ensure that all recipients of these seeds are notified.
The CDC reports that as of June 27, 2013, 127 people were exposed to Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend. The illnesses have been reported in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wisconsin. The people who were reported ill in Wisconsin were exposed to the product in California.
The CDC reports that the outbreak strain of Hepatitis A virus (HAV), belonging to genotype 1B, was found in clinical specimens of 56 people in seven states. This strain is rarely seen in the Americas but circulates in North Africa and the Middle East.
The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation's food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.
The information in this release reflects the FDA’s best efforts to communicate what it has learned from the manufacturer and the state and local public health agencies involved in the investigation. The agency will update as more information becomes available.
For more information:
• FDA: FDA Investigates Multistate Outbreak of Hepatitis A Illnesses Potentially Associated with a Frozen Fruit Blend
• CDC: Multistate outbreak of Hepatitis A potentially associated with "Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend" frozen berry and pomegranate mix
• FoodSafety.gov on Hepatitis A