Colorado's count of hepatitis A cases from the frozen berry mix sold at Costco has now reached at least 22 patients, according to a new CDC update. The new summary also mentions that a sister agency, the FDA, is now looking at the food manufacturer's plant for more clues of the origins of the apparently foodborne virus.
The CDC reported a total of 118 cases in 12 states; its accompanying case map, which has sometimes lagged the total count, shows Colorado with the second-highest number of cases after California. The map's total of 20 Colorado cases was counted when CDC overall was announcing only 102 cases, according to Seattle food safety attorney Bill Marler.
The FDA is inspecting the production facilities of the frozen berries' origins, Townsend Farms of Fairview, Ore. The berries were sold at Costco and Harris Teeter stores under the label "Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend," but so far the people who got sick have only reported shopping for the berries at Costco. Seventy-one percent of those ill who were interviewed said they had eaten the berry blend.
The FDA is also working out a testing protocol from samples taken of the berry blend itself. The CDC has reported that the particular strain of hepatitis A found in patient tests is most common in Middle Eastern countries, and one ingredient of the berry blend came from Turkey. But the federal agencies have not yet declared a known culprit for transmission of hepatitis A, which is a relatively common illness in some food workers and can be spread from their hands to food products.