Hepatitis A outbreak: Was it the (organic) berries?

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sb10062327o-001Organic foods benefit from what s known as a halo effect. People believe that because they are not produced with synthetic pesticides they are more healthful. As a result, they also gain the misguided reputation of being safer. That this is not true is obvious from a recent lawsuit in California.

Lynda Brackenridge is suing Costco and Townsend Farms because she developed hepatitis A after eating a frozen organic berry-pomegranate mixture produced by Townsend and purchased at Costco. Ms. Brackenridge is one of 49 victims of an HA outbreak that thus far has sickened people in seven states. Ten other people have also been hospitalized for the disease.

According to the CDC, 22 of 30 ill people reported eating the frozen berry and pomegranate mixture, and said they had purchased the product at Costco. The ages of infected people ranged from 2 to 71 years.

While HA is not usually fatal (death rates are quoted as one in 200 cases), the disease causes jaundice, gastrointestinal problems, aches, fatigue and chills. It can be spread through person-to-person contact, as well as by contaminated food and water.

The strain of hepatitis A involved in this outbreak is unusual in the United States it is more typically found in North Africa and the Middle East. In fact, the pomegranate seeds used in the product were sourced in the Middle East.

ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava emphasizes As we ve said many times, there is no safety or nutritional benefit from consuming organic foods. The idea that minuscule amounts of pesticides are dangerous is simply not true, and this outbreak should make it clear that organic production methods have nothing to do with prevention of microbiological contamination.