Officials say as many as 9,000 students and school employees may have been exposed to hepatitis A through contaminated frozen strawberries.
WESTPORT, Apr 03 (Reuters) – The Los Angeles Unified School District is setting up a program to administer immune serum globulin to as many as 9,000 students and school employees who may have been exposed to hepatitis A through contaminated frozen strawberries.
Dr. Shirley Fannin, director of infectious disease control for Los Angeles County, said that there is a 14-day incubation period for hepatitis A, so “…it’s not a panic situation. We’re here within a week of consumption. We have another week to plan.”
According to Wednesday’s edition of the Los Angeles Times, the frozen fruit was served March 25-March 28 in 13 elementary schools, 2 middle schools and 3 high schools. The school district has yet to report any cases of hepatitis A. The strawberries have been implicated in 3 hepatitis outbreaks in Michigan, and berries from the same source were shipped to Arizona, Florida, Tennessee, Iowa and Illinois as part of a USDA-sponsored school lunch program. The strawberries were grown and frozen in Mexico in April and May 1996.
The USDA has launched an investigation because the department is only allowed to buy commodities grown in the U.S. for the school lunch program. Tom Amontree, a spokesman for the USDA, said, “We have investigators working on it right now to determine whether these are Mexican strawberries. If so, it’s a serious offense.”
Health officials are trying to determine the source of the contamination. They said that it could have been in Mexico, the packer in San Diego (Andrew & Williamson), or the processing plant in Clovis, California (Wawona Food Services).
In response to the outbreak in the Michigan schools, Epitope, the Beaverton, Oregon-based parent company of Andrew & Williamson, announced on Wednesday that it has begun a voluntary recall of 13 lots of its frozen, sliced strawberries, according to Reuters Business Briefing. Adolph Ferro, CEO of Epitope, said, “While it is not certain that the lots being recalled are contaminated, we want to eliminate all possible risk to consumers.”
SOURCE Michigan Department of Community Health
/CONTACT: Geralyn Lasher of MDCH, 517-241-2112/
[04-03-97 at 18:01 EST, PR Newswire]