Hepatitis A Outbreak in Frozen Tuna

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notified consumers Friday that frozen tuna sold in stores in three states was being recalled due to a possible Hepatitis A contamination.

The current recall resulted from follow-up after the Hawaii Department of Health notified the FDA of a frozen tuna sample, sourced from PT Deho Canning Co., which tested positive for hepatitis A on May 1, 2017. The initially recalled product was removed from circulation and the newly recalled frozen tuna lots were not shipped to Hawaii, but were shipped to the mainland U.S.

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The risk of hepatitis A virus exposure is  from contaminated frozen tuna sourced from Sustainable Seafood Company, Vietnam, and Santa Cruz Seafood Inc., Philippines.

The FDA is providing a list of establishments in TX, OK, and CA that may currently have potentially contaminated tuna in commerce to help alert consumers that may be at risk of the hepatitis A virus.

Contact your health care professional if you believe you have been exposed to contaminated tuna.

What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the hepatitis A virus . It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Hepatitis A can be spread when a person ingests the virus from contaminated food or water. The virus can also be easily passed from an infected person to other unvaccinated family members, sexual partners, and close contacts.

What are the Symptoms of Hepatitis A?

Symptoms in adults include fatigue, abdominal pain, jaundice, abnormal liver tests, dark urine, and pale stool. People with hepatitis A may not have symptoms until 15 to 50 days after consuming a contaminated food or drink. CDC reports that while the hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for all children, vaccination rates are lower than for other recommended childhood vaccines. Unvaccinated children can become ill and not have symptoms.

Who is at Risk?

Any unvaccinated person who consumed recalled frozen tuna is at risk of contracting the hepatitis A virus.

What Can be Done to Prevent Infection with Hepatitis A?

CDC recommends providing post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for unvaccinated people who have eaten any of the recalled raw or undercooked tuna products in the last two weeks. People who have consumed this fish fully cooked are at reduced risk of exposure, but we encourage consultation with medical professionals.

PEP consists of:

  • Hepatitis A vaccine for people between the ages of 1 and 40 years
  • Hepatitis A virus-specific immunoglobulin (IG) for people outside of this age range, but the hepatitis A vaccine can be substituted if IG is not available.
  • Those with evidence of previous vaccination do not require PEP

If you are unsure if you have been vaccinated against hepatitis A virus, contact your health professional to check your immunization records. If you have been vaccinated, no further action is needed. If you have never received the hepatitis A vaccine, getting a single dose within two weeks of exposure can protect against illness. If you are unable to determine whether you have already been vaccinated, receiving an additional dose of vaccine is not harmful.

What Do Restaurants and Retailers Need To Do?

Affected restaurants and other retail locations should take appropriate actions to ensure that recalled product is not served to consumers. If any businesses find they served any recalled product within the last two weeks, they should contact their local health department and wherever possible, notify their consumers about possible exposure to hepatitis A virus and the potential benefit of post exposure prophylaxis.

In the event that retailers and/or other retail locations are found to have handled recalled or other potentially contaminated food in their facilities, they should:

  • Wash and sanitize display cases and refrigerators where potentially contaminated products were stored.
  • Wash and sanitize cutting boards, surfaces, and utensils used to prepare, serve, or store potentially contaminated products.
  • Wash hands with hot water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process.
  • Retailers, restaurants, and other food service operators who have processed and packaged any potentially contaminated products need to be concerned about cross contamination of cutting surfaces and utensils through contact with the potentially contaminated products.

What Do Consumers Need To Do?

If you think you’ve gotten sick from eating recalled tuna contact your health care professional. The FDA and CDC are not currently aware of any illnesses related to any recalled frozen tuna. However, because hepatitis A can have serious health consequences, CDC advises post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for unvaccinated persons who have consumed any of the recalled frozen tuna products in the past two weeks. PEP offers no preventive benefit to persons whose exposure occurred more than 2 weeks ago. People who have consumed this fish fully cooked are at reduced risk of exposure, but are encouraged to consult with their medical professionals.

Contaminated shellfish, fruit (berries), and salads are the most frequent foodborne sources of hepatitis A. Hepatitis A can be transmitted from person to person. Consumers should always practice safe food handling and preparation measures. Wash hands, utensils, and surfaces with hot, soapy water before and after handling food. Consumers should thoroughly wash their hands after using the bathroom and changing diapers to help protect themselves from hepatitis A, as well as other foodborne diseases.

Who Should be Contacted?

Contact your healthcare professional if you think you may have become ill from eating tuna, or if you believe that you have eaten any of the recalled frozen tuna within the last two weeks.

The FDA encourages consumers with questions about food safety to call 1-888-SAFEFOOD Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Eastern time, or to consult http://www.fda.gov.