FDA Probes Reports of Hepatitis A Associated with Frozen Tuna

Public Health Watchdog Breaking News
Public Health Watchdog Breaking News

Hilo Fish Company Recalls Frozen Tuna Due to Hepatitis A Risk

Regulators are investigating reports of hepatitis A associated with frozen tuna sourced from Sustainable Seafood Company, Vietnam, and Santa Cruz Seafood Inc., Philippines. Last month, Hawaii-based Hilo Fish Company recalled frozen tuna products sourced from Sustainable Seafood Company and Santa Cruz Seafood, Inc. because it tested positive for the hepatitis A virus.

The food safety attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP are offering free legal consultations to individuals who suffered foodborne illness related to contaminated products. The firm has decades of experience dealing with consumer safety lawsuits.

According to an update posted on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website, the agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “are assisting state and local officials in assessing the risk of hepatitis A virus exposure from contaminated frozen tuna sourced from Sustainable Seafood Company, Vietnam, and Santa Cruz Seafood Inc., Philippines.”

The notification states that post-exposure prophylaxis can prevent hepatitis A infection in unvaccinated people who consumed the contaminated products within two weeks.

Previously, Hilo notified customers of the recall on May 18, stating that certain frozen tuna products may be contaminated with hepatitis A. “The FDA received records from the company or its distribution partners indicating that they sold frozen tuna to the establishments listed on the FDA’s website,” the update states. “The FDA is working with Hilo and other distributors to ensure that the companies remove product from the market.”

The initial recall involved imported raw frozen ahi tuna cubes sourced from PT Deho Canning Co., lot codes 609149 and 609187. The FDA believes these products are no longer on the market.

In the updated communication, the FDA says the current recall affects “frozen yellowfin tuna steaks from Sustainable Seafood Company and yellowfin tuna cubes from Santa Cruz Seafood. This recall by Hilo Fish Company includes Tuna Steaks, 8 oz. individually vacuum packed bags, production date code: 627152, Lot number: 166623; Expiration date: 2018-10-01 and Frozen Yellowfin tuna cubes, random; Individually vacuum packed; 15 lb. case, date code: 705342, Lot number: 173448; Expiration dates: 2019-04-01).”

The recall has not been associated with any new illnesses thus far, according to the CDC. However, the agency says unvaccinated persons who may have consumed the recalled products within the past two weeks should have post exposure prophylaxis (PEP). For people between the ages of 1 and 40 years old, this means receiving a hepatitis A vaccine. For people outside this age range, PEP consists of hepatitis A virus-specific immunoglobulin (IG). If IG is unavailable, the hepatitis A vaccine can be substituted, the FDA states.

The FDA learned of the contamination after the Hawaii Department of Health informed the agency of a frozen tuna sample, sourced from PT Deho Canning Co. The sample tested positive for hepatitis A on May 1, 2017.

“Consumers may be at risk of contracting a hepatitis A infection due to the consumption of potentially contaminated frozen tuna distributed by Hilo Fish Company and sourced from Sustainable Seafood Company,” the alert states. “The FDA is collecting additional frozen tuna samples and increasing its screening measures and testing for imported seafood for these companies.”

Regulators are investigating restaurants and retail locations that may be affected by the recall.
The agency says Hilo is responsible for notifying customers of the recall.

Hepatitis A Background and Symptoms

Eating food contaminated with the hepatitis A virus can cause hepatitis A, a contagious liver disease. Hepatitis A can be mild, lasting a few weeks, or severe, lasting several months. Unvaccinated family members, sexual partners and people in close contact can also spread hepatitis A.

According to the FDA, symptoms of hepatitis A include:

• Fatigue
• Abdominal pain
• Jaundice
• Abnormal liver tests
• Dark urine
• Pale stool

Symptoms may appear 15 to 50 days after eating food tainted with hepatitis A.

Foods most commonly contaminated with hepatitis A include shellfish, fruit (berries), and salads.
Regulators advise consumers to see a healthcare professional if they believe they consumed recalled tuna. If an unvaccinated personal consumed the contaminated product within two weeks, PEP can prevent hepatitis A infection.

The FDA advises consumers to handle food safely. This includes using hot, soapy water to wash hands, utensils and surfaces. Regulators also emphasize the importance of thoroughly washing hands after using the bathroom and changing diapers.

Filing a Food Contamination Lawsuit

If you or someone you know became ill due to contaminated food products, you may have valuable legal rights. The food safety attorneys at Parker Waichman offer free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information, fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).