United States FDA Investigates Possible Hepatitis A Contamination in Strawberries
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has launched an investigation into potential hepatitis A contamination in strawberries grown in Baja California, Mexico. These strawberries were exported to the US market and sold frozen at major retailers such as Walmart, Costco, and HEB.
Hepatitis A and Its Transmission
According to the Institute of Security and Social Services for State Workers (ISSSTE), hepatitis A is primarily found in the feces of infected individuals. This virus is commonly transmitted through the consumption of contaminated food or water, although it can also be spread through sexual contact.
Hepatitis A, along with cysticercosis, E.coli, and Giardia Lamblia, are among the organisms that can be acquired if fruits and vegetables are not properly cleaned. The presence of these harmful organisms can lead to various symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, and fever.
Ensuring Proper Disinfection of Strawberries
Adhering to the Official Mexican Standard NOM-251-SSA1-2009, proper disinfection of strawberries involves reducing the number of microorganisms present to a level that does not compromise food safety. The first step is to wash the strawberries using soap and lightly scrub them, without removing the stem, in order to eliminate visible dirt and reduce the number of microorganisms on the fruit.
Rinsing the strawberries under running water until all traces of soap are removed is the next step. Then, in a bowl, enough water should be added to cover the strawberries. To ensure proper disinfection, it is recommended to measure the exact amount of water used. With the fruit covered in water, a few drops of substances like chlorine, iodine, or colloidal silver can be added for disinfection, as suggested by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
It is crucial to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer regarding the use of disinfectants, including the amount, time, and process. Cold water should be used for disinfection. After disinfection, the strawberries should be removed, drained, and dried before storing them in a container with a lid, preferably in the refrigerator.
While some recommend using baking soda in water to disinfect strawberries and other foods, experts from the Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition state that baking soda alone does not possess disinfecting powers. It can regulate acidity, creating an environment less favorable for the growth of microorganisms, but it may not eliminate all potential organisms or viruses present in the fruit.
The New York State Department of Health emphasizes that getting the hepatitis A vaccine is the best long-term preventative measure against this infectious disease.
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