Officials in the United Kingdom are investigating close to 30 related Hepatitis A infections with some linked to imported dates.

There are 28 people sick in different parts of England since the start of this year, according to Public Health England (PHE).

The agency added a number of people reported eating dates with epidemiological studies and product testing continuing.

Sainsbury’s date recall
PHE and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) are investigating the non-travel related cases of Hepatitis A and work is ongoing to see if additional preventive measures are needed.

“As a result of these investigations, Sainsbury’s has voluntarily recalled Taste the Difference Medjool dates and withdrawn stock from shelves. This is a precautionary measure taken by the business,” said an FSA spokesperson.

“Should we identify that unsafe food products have been placed on the market, appropriate actions will be undertaken to remove the risk, which could include further product recalls and withdrawals.”

All best before dates with supplier or site code K0014 EW in a 200-gram and 500-gram pack are affected. They have been on sale since Dec. 24, 2020.

Sainsbury’s issued a recall based on epidemiological evidence by PHE but Hepatitis A contamination in the dates has not been confirmed with results so far being negative.

“We are asking customers who have purchased these products with this specific supplier code not to eat them and to return them to their nearest Sainsbury’s store for a full refund when they next visit for groceries and other essentials. Please note that packs without this code present are not affected,” said the supermarket in a statement.

Product from Jordan
Recalled product comes from an importer who only supplies Sainsbury’s with dates from Jordan. Epidemiological and supply chain investigations have shown a potential link as one sick person had eaten dates from this supplier.

The supermarket has a number of date providers and has suspended supply from the one involved in the incident. The grower listed on the recalled product is Progressive Agricultural Investment Co.

Kate Folkard, deputy director for the National Infections Service at PHE, said a number of related cases of Hepatitis A have been identified in England and Wales since the beginning of the year.

“While the cases are geographically dispersed, genomic sequencing has identified three closely related strains of the Hepatitis A virus and investigations continue into a possible common source. The risk to public health is low. Good hygiene, especially handwashing, is important to help prevent the spread of Hepatitis A.”

Hepatitis A is spread when someone ingests the virus through close contact with an infected person or by eating contaminated food or drink. The incubation period is usually 14 to 28 days, but it can take up to 50 days for symptoms to develop. Symptoms can last up to two months and include fatigue, nausea, stomach pain, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes). Most people do not have long-lasting illness.

The best way to prevent it is to get vaccinated but compliance with general hygiene rules, such as handwashing, especially after going to the toilet and before handling food, can protect against transmission.

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