Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, and Assistant Minister for Health, Fiona Nash, have moved to update Australians on the situation involving imported frozen berries and Hepatitis A. The Ministers said today that 100% screening would apply to frozen berries from factories in China linked to the Australian Hepatitis A incident, which have been held pending further testing. This 100% testing will include testing for Hepatitis A indicators.
All frozen berries from the facilities in question were immediately held as soon as the Hepatitis A issue came to light. In addition, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has provided interim advice upgrading the suspect frozen berries to “medium risk” following a request by the Department of Agriculture last week to review the risk status. Berries from these facilities are subject to 100 per cent testing at the border.
A recall to pull the stock off the shelves was also issued immediately upon news of the Hepatitis A issue, and the Department of Health’s National Incident Room was also activated in Canberra to manage the matter. Comprehensive testing of the berry product in question is being carried out with early results due this week.
Australian officials from the Department of Agriculture are on the ground working with the Chinese authorities on this matter. The Department of Agriculture has also sought information on supply chains from all importers of frozen berries from China.
The Chinese Government has carried out initial inspections of the packing facility implicated in the outbreak and has taken swabs for microbiological testing.
Additionally, and as part of the Department of Agriculture’s request, FSANZ will continue its broader and rigorous scientific assessment of the risk status of frozen berries from around the globe. The assessment is expected to take some weeks.
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer has advised that an estimated 1% infection rate for people eating these berries is a very conservative upper limit, which could be revised downwards as experts continue to examine all the data. In addition, previous outbreaks of hepatitis A have shown that around 30% of adults infected may not show symptoms at all and this is higher in children.
After careful assessment, the Australian Red Cross Blood Service has now advised that people who have eaten the berries can continue to give blood so long as they are not sick.
No person has ever contracted Hepatitis A from a blood transfusion in Australia.
Posted 24 February 2015