Health officials from a myriad of federal and local agencies are investigating the multistate hepatitis A outbreak linked to frozen strawberries in smoothies served in Tropical Smoothie Cafe restaurant locations.
A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report put the outbreak at 70 cases in seven states.
In Virginia, where the first cluster of cases were reported on in mid-August, has been most severely affected by the outbreak. According to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) on Friday, 66 Virginia residents who had tested positive for hepatitis A reported consuming a smoothie at Tropical Smoothie Café prior to becoming ill.
Health officials say approximately 42% of the residents, or about 28 cases required hospitalization for their illness.
On Thursday, Tropical Smoothie Cafe issued the following statement:
Food safety is Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s top priority, and we are deeply sorry for anyone who may have become ill after visiting one of our Virginia-area cafes. Our first concern is their health and recovery.
After being notified by The Virginia Department of Health of possible links between strawberries sourced from Egypt and Hepatitis A, we voluntarily pulled all Egyptian strawberries from our cafes. We are now sourcing strawberries only from the Americas.
We continue to work closely with state health officials, as well as the CDC and FDA, to share all information we have regarding our source of these strawberries. In fact, health officials have praised our cooperation and swift action to voluntarily withdraw the Egyptian strawberries from our cafes.
However, with an incubation period of 15 – 50 days for Hepatitis A, there remains the possibility that additional cases may arise from people who consumed Egyptian strawberries before August 8th.
We appreciate the continued patience and support of our guests, franchisees, and their hard-working employees as we work through this unfortunate situation.
Anyone who consumed a smoothie with frozen strawberries at a restaurant within the last 50 days is encouraged to watch for symptoms of hepatitis A. If illness occurs, seek medical care and take steps to protect others from the infection.
Hepatitis A is an inflammation of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. The classic symptom of hepatitis A is jaundice, which is a yellowing of the skin or the eyes. Other symptoms of hepatitis A include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine and light-colored stools. Symptoms develop 15-50 days after exposure to the virus, which can occur through direct contact with another person who has the infection or by consuming food or drink that has been contaminated with the virus.