Townsend Farms Organic Frozen Berries Hepatitis A Outbreak - Multistate (2013)


Marler Clark has filed 8 individual lawsuits against Townsend Farms, the Oregon organic berry producer whose "Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend" of frozen berries and pomegranate seeds has been identified as the source of a hepatitis A outbreak among residents of 9 states. The law firm has also filed class action lawsuits on behalf of residents of 9 states against Townsend Farms. The lawsuits were filed on behalf of all individuals who were required, for public health and personal safety reasons, to obtain a vaccination against hepatitis A, who received a prophylactic dose of immune globulin (IG) due to their exposure to the hepatitis A virus after eating Townsend Farms Organic Anti-oxidant Blend of frozen berries and pomegranate seeds. Also included in the lawsuits are individuals who sought testing for hepatitis A after learning they had been exposed to the virus.

Marler Clark represents dozens of people who fell ill with hepatitis A infections and plans to file additional lawsuits against the company.

The hepatitis A outbreak was announced on May 31, 2013. By September 20, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had reported 172 hepatitis A cases in 10 states associated with the Townsend Farms organic berry mix. At least 71 people had been hospitalized due to the severity of their illnesses.

On June 4, Townsend Farms announced a recall of its frozen berry blend products:

The product was sold at Costco warehouse stores under the product name Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend, 3 lb. bag and UPC 0 78414 404448. The recalled codes are located on the back of the package with the words “BEST BY”; followed by the code T012415 sequentially through T053115, followed by a letter. All of these letter designations are included in this recall for the lot codes listed above.

The product was also sold at Harris Teeter stores from April 19 until May 7, 2013, under the product name Harris Teeter Organic Antioxidant Berry Blend, 10 oz. bag and UPC 0 72036 70463 4, with Lot Codes of T041613E or T041613C and a “BEST BY” code of 101614.

Scenic Fruit Company Woodstock Frozen Organic Pomegranate Kernels were also recalled for hepatitis A contamination.

On June 29, 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it would detain shipments of pomegranate seeds from Goknur Gida Maddeleri Ithalat Ihracat Tic (Goknur Foodstuffs Import Export Trading) of Turkey before allowing them to be imported in to the United States. According to FDA:

This action results from the investigation by the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state and local health authorities into a multi-state outbreak of Hepatitis A illnesses associated with Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend, a frozen food blend containing pomegranate seed mix.
By combining information gained from the FDA’s traceback and traceforward investigations and the CDC’s epidemiological investigation, the FDA and CDC have determined that the most likely vehicle for the Hepatitis A virus appears to be a common shipment of pomegranate seeds from Goknur used by Townsend Farms to make the Townsend Farms and Harris Teeter Organic Antioxidant Blends that were recalled in June. These seeds were also used by Scenic Fruit Company to make their recently recalled Woodstock Frozen Organic Pomegranate Kernels.

The FDA reviewed records and determined that the pomegranate seeds from this shipment were the only ingredient common to all of the recalled Townsend Farms and Harris Teeter Organic Antioxidant Blend.

FDA will be working with the firms that have distributed pomegranate seeds from this shipment from Turkey to help ensure that all recipients of these seeds are notified.