The FDA is collecting samples of frozen berries from processors, distribution centers, warehouses, and retail locations throughout the year to test for hepatitis A virus and norovirus.
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The sampling assignment began in November and is estimated to last approximately 18 months. FDA is collecting domestic samples of frozen berries. It is also collecting import samples from ports of entry, importer warehouses, or other storage facilities where foreign goods are cleared for entry into the country. The agency plans to collect and test 2,000 samples in all.
Some consumers use frozen berries as ingredients in foods without first cooking them, increasing their risk of exposure to harmful viruses, says FDA. The agency reported three hepatitis A virus outbreaks and one norovirus outbreak linked to frozen berries in the U.S. from 1997 to 2016.
Strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are delicate and may become contaminated with bacteria or viruses if handled by an infected worker who does not use appropriate hand hygiene, or if exposed to contaminated agricultural water or a contaminated surface, like a harvesting tote. Freezing preserves berries but generally does not kill viruses, which can survive at low temperatures.
If FDA detects hepatitis A virus or norovirus in a sample, the agency will notify the firm of the finding(s) and work with the firm to take appropriate action. Upon detecting a positive test result, FDA may also take actions such as placing a firm on an import alert, overseeing a recall, or issuing public warnings.
The FDA will post the sampling results on its FY 19-20 Frozen Berries Assignment page on a quarterly basis and will publish an analytical report once the assignment is complete.