Instances of food contamination in Chinese packing plants seem to have risen in frequency over the years, and this time it’s frozen mixed berries contaminated with hepatitis A that are making people sick.
Last week, Australian authorities began investigating after five people fell ill after consuming frozen berries distributed by Patties Frozen Berries.
The Guardian reports that those people have since been diagnosed with hepatitis A. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of hepatitis A include fever, vomiting, fatigue, jaundice, joint pain, and dark urine. Contamination occurs after contact with the fecal matter of an infected person.
After an investigation, the contamination has been linked to a packaging plant. The berries are grown in Chile and China before distribution in Australia, but the contamination is thought to have taken place where the berries are packaged in China.
“The particular risk that we’ve identified here is that a country that has endemic hepatitis A, that is China, has been involved with packing these berries,” Finn Romanes, the department’s senior medical adviser, told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio. “Clearly there’s strong evidence that there may have been a contamination during the packing process, as they are fully sealed and then transported to Australia.”
Patties Foods then extended the recall that was already in place, which covered all 1kg packs of Nanna’s Frozen Mixed Berries. The extended recall now includes 300g and 500g packs of Creative Gourmet Mixed Berries.
Among the more memorable food production snafus in China are infant formula (which killed six and sickened 300,000) and frozen strawberries that caused 11,000 German children to fall ill with diarrhea and vomiting in 2012. Food recalls fall under product liability, which has the second-highest median damage awards of all types of personal injury cases, garnering an average of $300,000.
According to the New York Times, food production and contamination in China have been a concern due to compromised water quality because of pollution and rapid industrialization, and poor and unsanitary factory conditions.