Frozen berries recall widens in Hepatitis A scare
The recall of Fruzio frozen berries has been extended to cover 1kg bags of strawberries, blackberries and mixed berries.
The additional voluntary recall was announced on Friday after Fruzio's 1kg and 500g mixed berry bags, which contain strawberries and blackberries, were recalled on Thursday.
The products have been connected with a potential risk of hepatitis A.
The Ministry for Primary Industries said all other imported frozen berries should still be briefly boiled before being eaten. Berries could also be cooked at 85 degrees or higher for one minute.
Anyone who had the Fruzio products at home should throw them out, MPI director of plants food and environment Peter Thomson said.
"Elderly persons and those with chronic liver damage should avoid imported frozen berries that have not been heat treated.
"If you are concerned about a potential risk to your health, or the health of others, you should seek advice from your medical practitioner, or call the Ministry of Health's Healthline – 0800 61 11 16.
"If you are concerned about the safety of food products, contact the MPI consumer helpline (0800 00 83 33)."
FSL Foods markets the Fruzio products. The company's owner Mike Glover said the incident was devastating for the company.
"There were lots of tears last night, it's emotional because we think we do a good job," he said.
The company, which also supplies juice, fruit and flour-based products, had robust systems in place and worked with suppliers who sold internationally.
"Our first immediate interest is the interest of consumers and customers who have bought and eaten the product and our second concern is for our fantastic team," he said.
"Obviously we would like to apologise to those customers who have become ill."
He said the product had come from two Chinese provinces where 125,000 metric tonnes of fruit was produced each year.
He said the infected berries were sourced from Chinese provinces Shandong and Jiangsu.
He said the Chinese producers he dealt with had the highest food safety certificate and tested random samples of their fruit for hepatitis A.
"If we'd known about this of course we would have taken measures to stop the supply."
Customers who have purchased the Fruzio berries are able to take them back to the stores they purchased them from to receive a full refund.
Fruzio would continue their distribution of blueberries, mango's and cherries because they were not sourced from China, he said.
MORE CASES TO COME
Canterbury University professor of toxicology Ian Shaw said the ministry went the right way about publicising the outbreak, advising people to avoid all imported frozen berries altogether until the source or sources of the illness were found.
He said he was unsure whether more food contamination cases were coming to the fore, or whether they were just getting more publicity these days.
But it seemed certain there would be more, as New Zealand imported increasingly more of its foods from countries it had trade agreements with.
The agreements meant New Zealand had to accept that food standards in the countries it had agreements with.
"But we can't be too righteous as the same thing happened with New Zealand blueberries six or seven years ago."
The berry contamination is the latest of a raft of food safety scares in New Zealand:
* Fonterra and Federated Farmers received threatening letters and milk packages tainted with 1080 last November. The letters threatened to contaminate infant formula if New Zealand did not stop using 1080, a poison used for pest control, by March. A 60-year-old businessman has been arrested and charged with attempted blackmail.
* This month an investigation by Massey University found a new antibiotic-resistant strain of campylobacter in poultry from three of the four leading chicken suppliers in the North Island. The university would not name the producers at this stage.
* In 2013 tests on a whey protein from one of Fonterra's factories indicated the possible presence of botulism. Several months later, the tests proved negative but not before New Zealand's reputation for safe milk powder was damaged in China.
* In 2012 Fonterra found traces of dicyandiamide, an agricultural chemical, in dairy products. The DCD product was withdrawn from the market by fertiliser companies.
* In 2008, Fonterra's Chinese partner Sanlu was found to have melamine in its milk powder. Six children died from the contamination and later investigations found melamine-laced milk powder was widespread, with more than 20 companies identified.