FDA Warns of Potential Hepatitis A Outbreak Linked with Fresh Thyme Brand Blackberries

The United States Food and Drug Administration is warning of an outbreak of hepatitis that could be linked with fresh blackberries from the Fresh Thyme grocery store chain. In conjunction with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—and state and local officials—the FDA is investigating fresh, non-organic blackberries from the Illinois-based chain after some people reported feeling ill after consuming them.

As of the time of publication, 11 people, so far, have gotten sick. Six of these reports are severe enough to require hospitalization.  

According to a statement from the FDA, the fresh, non-organic blackberries came through a distribution centers which ships to stores in the Fresh Thyme grocery chain.  This franchise has stores in 11 states:  Michigan, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio, Minnesota. 

In response to the warning, Fresh Thyme said it is currently working with investigators in order to identify the source of the potentially-dangerous contamination.  Furthermore, the producer asserts there is “no reason to believe” these blackberries were contaminated by way of in-store handling; or, in other words, the contamination must be the result of processing before or during shipment to stores.  

In addition, the company says, “Fresh Thyme takes the health and safety of our customers and our team members very seriously. Fresh Thyme Farmers Market has a stringent process for ensuring comliance to all local, state, and federal health and hygiene regulations.”

Hepatitis A, of course, is a highly contagious infection that take holds in the liver. It is caused by the hepatitis A virus and is typically prevented by vaccines.  Unfortunately, this condition seems to be on the rise in the United States.  Hepatitis A can be transmitted by consuming contaminated food as well as close personal—and sexual—contact, and drug use. 

Symptoms of hepatitis A include nausea, fatigue, fever, low appetite, and vomiting.  These symptoms typically appear about four weeks after the initial exposure, but the CDC also notes that they can appear as early as two weeks or as late as seven weeks after exposure. 

Fortunately, symptoms tend to be somewhat mild and usually clear up within two months for most people.  In fact, most people can be infected with hepatitis A and get on just fine without any lasting liver damage.  In rare cases, of course, the infection can result in liver failure and, eventually, death.