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FSANZ advice on hepatitis A and imported ready-to-eat berries

In 2015, cases of hepatitis A were linked to consumption of imported frozen ready-to-eat (RTE) berries. In response, several products were recalled from retail sale and Australia introduced new requirements for frozen berries being imported from all countries. The following information was released at the time.

FSANZ provided information to the Department of Agriculture about berries and hepatitis A – read the imported food risk statement  (pdf 497 kb) | (word 675 kb).

FSANZ and the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries also developed guidance for industry on inactivation of hepatitis A virus in berry fruits. Read the guidance here.

What is hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A affects the liver and is a disease caused by the hepatitis virus. Unlike hepatitis B and C, it doesn’t cause chronic (long-lasting) liver disease. In most hepatitis A cases, a person’s immune system will clear the infection and the liver will completely heal.

Many infected people, particularly children under the age of five, often do not show any symptoms. However, for older children and adults the following symptoms may indicate a hepatitis A infection:

  • fever
  • nausea
  • abdominal discomfort
  • dark urine
  • pain in the liver (under the right rib cage)
  • loss of appetite; and
  • yellow skin and eyes (jaundice).

After catching the virus it usually takes about 28 days to become ill, but it can take anywhere from 15 to 50 days in some cases. People with hepatitis A can pass it on to others from two weeks before they show symptoms to one week after they become jaundiced.

How does food become contaminated with hepatitis A virus?

The most common sources of contamination are:

  • food being grown in contaminated water
  • produce being picked or packed by a person infected with hepatitis A; and
  • produce being washed in contaminated water.

The virus can survive for several hours outside of the body and can persist on people’s hands and in food. It is resistant to heating and freezing. 

More information

Hepatitis A factsheet (Commonwealth Department of Health)

Food safety requirements for importing berries (Department of Agriculture and Water Resources)

Read more about testing of imported food at the border


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