FOR the second time in two years berries imported from China have been implicated in a hepatitis A outbreak.
Last week three cases of hepatitis A virus were “potentially linked” to the consumption of Creative Gourmet frozen mixed berries in 300g packs.
The product contained blueberries sourced from Canada, and strawberries, raspberries and blackberries sourced from China.
The berries were packaged in China before being shipped to Australia and repackaged in Melbourne.
The Creative Gourmet brand, now owned by Entyce Food Ingredients, was also linked to a hepatitis A outbreak in February 2015, when the brand was owned by Patties Foods.
In response, greater border controls were put in place to stop contaminated frozen berries entering Australia.
The new controls also required declarations for berries imported from China and there is now targeted border intervention of berries from China and Serbia.
However, a Department of Agriculture and Water Resources spokesman said the latest batch of berries was imported before the extra border controls were put in place.
Raspberries and Blackberries Australia chairman Greg Jarman encouraged consumers to buy Australian.
“Australian berries are grown and packed under strict food safety guidelines and consumers should have complete confidence that Australian berries are safe to eat,” Mr Jarman said.
Ruth Gallace, co-founder of the Australian-owned and produced frozen berry company Matilda’s, said it was “outrageous” there were still brands using “questionable” imported fruit after the 2015 incident.
“This problem never went away and was always going to happen again. It was just a matter of time,” Ms Gallace said.
Fresh Produce Safety Centre food safety and technology head Richard Bennett said importing frozen berries from some countries had always been risky, but it was unlikely imports would ever be banned from entering Australia.
“These incidents should raise a red flag in the risk assessment of this product, but we need to deal with that with appropriate controls, including ensuring companies only use suppliers with adequate controls in place,” Mr Bennett said.