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Be careful with frozen berries or you could get hepatitis, warns food watchdog

Got imported frozen berries? Boil ‘em before you eat ‘em.

Mmmm. Hepatitis-y.
Mmmm. Hepatitis-y.
Image: Shutterstock

THE FOOD SAFETY watchdog has advised people to boil imported frozen berries before eating them because of the risk of contracting Hepatitis A.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) said it was renewing advice originally given last year because contaminated berries may still be circulating in the food chain.

The food poisoning outbreak of the Hepatitis A virus was linked to imported berries and was found in twelve countries across Europe, including Ireland.

There have been several cases of the virus in Ireland this month alone which cannot be explained by travel abroad, and the FSAI said that investigations are under way to see if there could be a link with the berries or other foods.

The outbreak began in May 2013 in Germany. Since then, a total of 1,440 cases of the virus have been reported across twelve countries, including 21 in Ireland.

While there was no single source of contamination, the most common ingredient that all the affected people had eaten was blackberries from Bulgaria and redcurrants from Poland.

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Consumers are being advised to boil any frozen berries which come from outside of Ireland for at least one minute before eating them.

Professor Alan Reilly, the head of the FSAI, said the outbreak highlighted just how complex the food chain can be.

“This is a precautionary measure and will destroy the virus if it is present,” he said.

There is no evidence that fresh Irish berries were the cause of the outbreak. However we suggest that – as with all other fruit and vegetables, fresh berries should be washed thoroughly if they are being eaten uncooked.

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Christine Bohan

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