Hepatitis A outbreak linked to frozen strawberries distributed to restaurants in central Indiana

Stock photo of frozen strawberries.

Stock photo of frozen strawberries.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) officials have identified a potential hepatitis A exposure linked to frozen strawberries.

ISDH says there is an ongoing investigation into a multi-state outbreak of hepatitis A that has been linked to the frozen fruit, which was imported from Egypt.

It is not known at this time where and when the potentially contaminated strawberries were served or sold in Indiana. To date, health officials in Marion, Hamilton and Hendricks counties have confirmed that the recalled strawberries were distributed to eight local restaurants in the last two weeks.

Anyone who consumed a food item that contained strawberries at a restaurant in those counties since Nov. 1 should contact their local health department for more information.

Two restaurants in Marion County used the strawberries until they were notified of the recall. Both restaurants have cooperated with the health department and are no longer serving strawberries:

  • El Ray Del Taco, located at 3925 North High School Road.
  • Don Marcos Ice Cream and Restaurant, located at 4779 North Post Road.

The other six restaurants have not been identified yet.

The Hamilton County Health Department says 17 facilities in the county received the recalled product and were surveyed regarding their use. Of those, two facilities required additional follow up by  epidemiological staff.

During the follow up, it was determined that no facilities are using the recalled product, and there is a low risk for hepatitis A in Hamilton County retail food establishments.

More affected counties could be identified as the investigation continues. Unlike in other states, no schools or nursing homes in Indiana have been identified as receiving recalled products.

Hepatitis A is caused by a virus that inflames the liver. Signs and symptoms of infection include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, fever and jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).

Those who may have been exposed within the last two weeks can receive either a vaccine or immunoglobulin, depending on their age, to help prevent infection by contacting their health care provider or local health department.

At this time, there have been no confirmed cases of hepatitis A in Indiana as a result of the strawberries.

The Marion County Public Health Department established a hotline to answer questions and concerns from anyone who is not sure if they are at-risk for possible hepatitis A exposure. The number to call is 317-221-5503 beginning on Wednesday, Nov. 16 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

The current investigation is a result of a national recall that began in January. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) initially issued the recall in association with strawberry smoothies but expanded the scope of the recall as it discovered that additional products were affected.

ISDH was notified on Nov. 8 that the strawberries affected by the recall had been distributed in Indiana and immediately began surveying local health departments to determine when and how the strawberries were distributed.

“Hepatitis A is a serious illness, and we know many people may be concerned about whether they have been exposed through frozen strawberries,” said State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams, M.D., M.P.H. “The health and safety of Indiana residents is our top priority, and we are working diligently with local and federal agencies to identify where the strawberries were distributed and minimize the risk of infection.”

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