Berry products removed from shelves after Australian health scare

Supermarket chain Cold Storage has pulled frozen berry products from an Australian company off its shelves, following reports of people falling sick after eating them.

The Australian authorities are investigating as nine people contracted hepatitis A after eating Patties Food berries, newswire Thomson Reuters reported.

Cold Storage yesterday confirmed it had removed Patties' products, namely Nanna's frozen mixed berries and Creative Gourmet frozen mixed berries, from its shelves. Patties recalled these products last weekend.

Following advice from Singapore's Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), Cold Storage pulled two additional products - Nanna's frozen blueberries and Nanna's frozen raspberries - until further notice.

Other major supermarket chains, FairPrice and Sheng Siong, said they did not carry Patties' berry products.

Signs will be posted at Cold Storage supermarkets about the recall, a spokesman said. Customers who have bought the items can get a refund if they bring them back and present a receipt.

The affected berries were grown in both Chile and China before being packed at the factory in China.

Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver spread by eating food contaminated with infected faeces or uncooked shellfish. It can also be spread by close contact with an infectious person. Symptoms include nausea and fever.

The department of health in Australia's Victoria state reportedly said the contamination in the latest case had been traced back to China.

"The particular risk that we've identified here is that a country that has endemic hepatitis A, that is China, has been involved with packing these berries," Dr Finn Romanes, the department's senior medical adviser, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"Clearly there's strong evidence that there may have been contamination during the packing process as they are fully sealed and then transported to Australia."

It was not immediately known what other products, if any, the Chinese supplier produced for export, he added.

AVA has advised those who bought affected products not to consume them. It is also working with the importer to remove them from sale.

kashc@sph.com.sg