How can an outbreak of Hepatitis A in the USA be deemed to be of interest to anyone carrying out horizon scanning? This event emerged during June and July has been associated with Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend of frozen fruits that included pomegranate seeds originating from Turkey. Of course the main factors that make berries a regular vector is that they are often handpicked and often they are eaten ‘fresh’ without any cooking.
As many as 162 people have been infected across 10 US States mainly in the west and south west.
It is interesting to note that this followed an outbreak in Europe earlier in the year also related to pomegranate seeds that came from Egypt. A high number of these cases were people who consumed smoothies made with the seeds as an ingredient. Could information on that event have helped the US company to head-off the threat. Could they have looked at their raw material specifications and food supply chain to re-evaluated the supplier risk assessment for pomegranate seeds? Is there a link between the Turkish source and the Egyptian source of pomegranate kernels?
Some of the US infections were derived from contact in the home with infected people. Perhaps that may explain another outbreak amongst staff and customers of a restaurant in New York where 5 cases have been reported in September.
The local health officials are proposing vaccination of the staff and the at-risk customers and their families.
I wondered if there is any benefit in offering and requiring vaccination of staff in the food industry especially those who work with products likely to be contaminated.
The US VDC says ‘Foodborne transmission occurs when an HAV-infected food handler contaminates food during preparation or when food is contaminated during harvesting or processing……..’
So is there any benefit in vaccinating food handlers? Is it worth the food industry supporting and encouraging the development of vaccines and requiring a mandatory vaccination program amongst suppliers?
The general view at present regarding HAV vaccination is ‘no’, not even for food service workers. However the advice offered for food workers changes for countries or regions where a community-wide outbreak has been recognised or perhaps where it is endemic.
So are you getting high risk product from Turkey and Egypt? Are you asking for information on staff vaccine records? It may make good sense if the risk is high and the product is eaten fresh or uncooked?
It may already be on your radar as standard practice.