Class action risk as hep A scare widens

Written By komlim puldel on Senin, 16 Februari 2015 | 20.01

Health experts expect the number of Australians to contract Hepatitis A from frozen berries to increase.

UP to nine people have now been hit with hepatitis A from contaminated frozen berries.

And the food scare that saw frozen mixed berries pulled from supermarket shelves is ripe for a class action­, a Melbourne law academic says.

As the hepatitis A scare spread to Queensland, $14.6 million was wiped off the value of Victorian company Patties Food on Monday.

Shares plunged 7.7 per cent after it was forced to recall packets of Nanna's and Creative Gourmet Mixed Berries.

It was the biggest one-day plunge since September 2009 and drove shares to a six-week low.

Three Victorians, three Queenslanders and two people in New South Wales diagnosed with hepatitis A have all reported eating 1kg packets of Nanna's Frozen Mixed Berries before becoming ill.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU'VE EATEN RECALLED FROZEN BERRIES

MARKET GOES COLD ON PATTIES FOODS OVER BERRIES SCARE

Creative Gourmet Mixed Berries 300g and 500g packs are recalled. Source: Supplied

1kg packets of Nanna's Frozen Mixed Berries have been withdrawn from sale. Source: News Corp Australia

A fourth Queenslander has tested positive to hepatitis A but it's unclear if berries were consumed.

Health authorities expect the number of those affected to rise.

The virus has an incubation period of up to 50 days.

Bairnsdale-based manufacturer Patties Foods expanded the recall on Sunday to include all 300g and 500g packs of Creative Gourmet Mixed Berries.

Customers who bought the berries are advised to return­ them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Dr Andy Schmulow, senior research associate in the school of law at the University of Melbourne, says the goods will have breached Australian consumer law if found not to be fit for human consumption.

Hepatitis A is spread when food is contaminated with faecal matter.

Patties Foods has been importing frozen berry products from China for the past six years and takes its blueberries from Chile.

Professor Enzo Palombo, Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biotechnology at Swinburne University of Technology, said freezing the berries would not eliminate the problem.

"While the virus does not grow in frozen food, it still remains infectious," he said.

Australian farmers say they are confident that homegrown fruits are the best berries money can buy.

Susie Palmer with a tray of fresh Aussie-grown berries at Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm in Main Ridge. Picture: Jay Town Source: News Corp Australia

Owner of Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm, Mick Gallace­ said Australian grown produce was subject to strict rules.

"You get a much fresher product which is grown with quality and is sold with a guarantee that you will not get sick," he said.

As a precaution, the Australian Red Cross Blood Service says it is working closely with health authorities to determine the risk of hepatitis A entering the blood supply.

It is asking donors who have eaten the three affected products and given blood after November 1 to contact them on 13 14 95.

Hepatitis A — what to look for

■ Symptoms start two to seven weeks after exposure.

■ Early symptoms include fever, nausea and loss of appetite.

■ After several days, jaundice develops: yellowed skin and eyes.

■ Dark urine, pale stools, diarrhoea.

andrew.jefferson@news.com.au

Twitter: @AndyJeffo

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