The Department of Health said there is “very strong evidence” linking Nanna’s recalled berries with an increased risk of developing Hep A.
Assistant Minister for Health, Senator Fiona Nash, said rigorous scientific analysis of information from interviews with affected people, comparisons with people who were not ill, as well as tracing the source of berries eaten by affected people, had been extensive.
“There is very strong evidence that consumption of Nanna's 1kg fresh frozen mixed berries led to an increased risk of developing Hepatitis A infection in this outbreak,” Senator Nash said.
“Cases with an identical genetic strain of Hepatitis A virus occurred across Australia reporting the common consumption of that product.
“Although testing of food is an unreliable way to detect Hepatitis A virus, as Patties Foods Limited have noted, the Victorian state Health Department testing of the product in question has now confirmed evidence of Hepatitis A virus at trace levels from a sealed packet of the product.
“Hepatitis A virus was also detected in an open packet of Nanna's 1kg fresh frozen mixed berries from a case.”
On Wednesday (15 April), Patties Foods issued a release announcing they had completed its microbiological and viral testing and found no Hepatitis A or E.coli on recalled products.
Patties will reintroduce Nanna’s and the Creative Gourmet brand berries back to the marketplace under a ‘positive release’ protocol. This means every batch will be tested in Australia for Hepatitis A and E.coli, and will only be released to market when negative test results are provided.
Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce said “the berries used to generate new product will be sourced from new farms and factories and subject to stricter microbiological testing than ever before.
“This testing includes microbiological testing for Hepatitis A virus, E.coli and coliforms.
“Patties berry products from the Chinese factories and farms associated with the recall are all still being held at the border, in line with directions given to Patties by the Department of Agriculture. The media statement made by Patties does not change the status of these consignments.
“Patties Foods has worked closely with my department throughout this food safety incident to help identify and hold berry product that potentially poses a risk to human health.
“All imported product that was linked to the outbreak of Hepatitis A in Australia was recalled by Patties and will never be put back onto the market.”
Minister Joyce said new import requirements for frozen berries were underway.
“More broadly, my department is working with Food Standards Australia New Zealand to ensure that the import requirements for all frozen berries, from all sources, comply with the stringent food safety requirements set out in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code,” Minister Joyce said.
“I expect that we will be in a position to announce these new requirements in the coming weeks.”