FDA Investigates Hepatitis A Linked to Frozen Tuna

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are assisting state and local officials in assessing the risk of hepatitis A virus exposure from contaminated frozen tuna from Sustainable Seafood Company, Vietnam, and Santa Cruz Seafood Inc., Philippines.

If unvaccinated consumers have consumed the recalled product within the last two weeks, they may need treatment to help prevent hepatitis A virus infection.

The attorneys at Parker Waichman have experience in cases involving food-borne illnesses and can answer questions from consumers who may have eaten the recalled tuna products.

FDA Update

This announcement is an update to a May 18 announcement from Hilo Fish Company, which alerted its customers and distributors about the company’s voluntary recall of certain tuna products. The Hawaii Department of Health notified the FDA of a frozen tuna sample, sourced from PT Deho Canning Co., which tested positive for hepatitis A on May 1, 2017. The FDA is working with Hilo and other distributors to ensure that the companies remove the tuna from the market.

The first recall consisted of imported raw frozen ahi tuna cubes from PT Deho Canning Co. (JL. Raya Madidir, Bitung, Indonesia). That recall by Tropic Fish includes lot codes 609149 and 609187. None of these products are believed to remain on the market.

The recall that began on May 18 consists of frozen yellowfin tuna steaks from Sustainable Seafood Company and yellowfin tuna cubes from Santa Cruz Seafood. This recall by Hilo Fish Company includes Tuna Steaks, 8 oz. individually vacuum packed bags, production date code: 627152, Lot number: 166623; Expiration date: 2018-10-01 and Frozen Yellowfin tuna cubes, random; Individually vacuum packed; 15 lb. case, date code: 705342, Lot number: 173448; Expiration dates: 2019-04-01).

As of the latest update to the recall page (June 14), the CDC said it is not aware of any illnesses linked to these products, but the CDC advises unvaccinated persons who may have consumed the potentially contaminated tuna within the past two weeks that they may need prophylactic treatment to prevent infection.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the hepatitis A virus. The disease can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months.

Symptoms of hepatitis A typically do not appear until the a few weeks after exposure. Symptoms may include:

  • fatigue
  • nausea and vomiting
  • abdominal pain or discomfort, especially on the right side beneath the lower ribs
  • clay-colored bowel movements
  • loss of appetite
  • low-grade fever
  • dark urine
  • joint pain
  • yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)

The Mayo Clinic explains that people are most likely to contract hepatitis from contaminated food or water or from close contact with someone who is infected. Mild cases of hepatitis A generally do not require treatment. Most people who are infected recover completely with no permanent liver damage. In rare instances, hepatitis A can cause liver failure and death, although this is more common in persons 50 years of age or older and persons with other liver diseases, such as hepatitis B or C.

An individual exposed to hepatitis A may avoid infection by receiving a hepatitis A vaccine or immunoglobulin therapy within two weeks of exposure.

Hepatitis A can easily be passed from an infected person to other unvaccinated family members, sexual partners, and close contacts. The CDC explains that practicing good hygiene, including frequent hand washing, is one of the best ways to protect against hepatitis A. Vaccines are available for people most at risk.

Who is at Risk?

Any unvaccinated person who consumed recalled frozen tuna is at risk of contracting the hepatitis A virus. CDC reports that while the hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for all children, vaccination rates are lower than for other recommended childhood vaccines. Unvaccinated children can become ill and not have symptoms.

The CDC recommends that unvaccinated people contact a health care professional about possible prophylactic if they have eaten any of the recalled raw or undercooked tuna products in the last two weeks. Anyone who has consumed this People who have consumed this fish fully cooked is at reduced risk of exposure, but the FDA encourages consultation with medical professionals.

Post-exposure prophylaxis consists of

  • hepatitis A vaccine for people between the ages of 1 and 40 years
  • hepatitis A virus-specific immunoglobulin (IG) for people outside of this age range, but the hepatitis A vaccine can be substituted if IG is not available.

People who have previously been vaccinated for hepatitis A do not require further treatment. For people who are unable to determine whether they have been vaccinated, receiving an additional dose of vaccine is not harmful.

Legal Help for Those at Risk for Hepatitis A

If you or someone you know is at risk for hepatitis A infection from consuming the recalled tuna products, please contact the attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP for a free, no-obligation evaluation of your legal rights. To reach the firm, fill out the contact form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).


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