Media reports “misleading and wrong”: Dept of Health

The Department of Health has said media reports that suggest health authorities waited a month to act from the first case of Hepatitis is misleading and completely wrong.

In a Senate Estimates hearing yesterday the Department stated that the three people in Victoria showed signs of Hepatitis A in early January. These cases were reported to national health authorities when these cases were confirmed and a potential link was established with the consumption of Patties frozen berries.

When the link was made Food Standards Australia New Zealand and the Department of Agriculture ensured there was a voluntary recall of a range of berries from Patties Foods and the Federal Department of Health immediately activated a national health response.

The Department of Health said the first isolated cases that have since been associated with the consumption of frozen berries were notified in January but a pattern of infection could only be established as subsequent cases came to light.

“As each case was notified they were investigated by state health authorities like all cases of Hepatitis A.  A key part of the investigation is collecting and analysing histories of exposure to possible sources of infection. When possible common exposures to a source of infection are identified, further detailed investigation either confirms or dismisses the possible common source. This is important as Hepatitis A infections can arise from sources other than food such as poor personal hygiene or direct contact with infected faecal matter,” Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Baggoley said in a media statement.”

“In this instance, after investigation of cases and detailed analyses of food consumption histories, the Victorian authorities confirmed a possible association with frozen berries on Thursday 12 February 2015,

“We believe the Victorian authorities have acted quickly and diligently in responding to this outbreak,” Baggoley said.

The national foodborne disease surveillance network, OzFoodnet, was advised of the association between the frozen berries and Hepatitis cases on Friday 13 February 2015, and on the same day discussion with the implicated company was initiated.

A voluntary consumer level recall of Nanna’s frozen mixed berries 1 kilogram packs was issued on Saturday 14 February 2015, with subsequent precautionary recalls of Creative Gourmet, made from Sunday 15 February 2015.

As of 11am, February 26, there are 19 confirmed cases that meet the reporting case definition:

  • 7 in QLD
  • 7 in NSW
  • 3 in Vic
  • 1 in WA
  • 1 newly notified case in ACT 

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has called upon Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce to prepare a submission for cabinet regarding country-of-origin by the end of March.


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