Low risk of Hepatitis A from fruit

KATIE KENNY
Last updated 05:00 15/03/2014

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The risk of catching Hepatitis A from potentially contaminated fruit is "relatively low", the Ministry of Primary Industries says. 

MPI today warned New Zealand apples and peaches sold between February 27 and March 13 may be carrying Hepatitis A - an acute infectious liver disease.

Fruit affected includes Royal Gala and New Zealand Beauty apples, and Golden Queen peaches.

The warning was issued after a worker at a Hawke's Bay pack house was found to have the virus, and could have been infectious during a four-day fruit-handling period. 

An MPI spokesman said the risk of contamination was low, but it was protocol to issue a warning in response to the diagnosis. 

The packer would have been wearing gloves, which greatly minimised the risk of the disease spreading, he said.

MPI Deputy Director General Scott Gallacher said people should be on alert for symptoms of the virus: "Skin jaundice, or yellowing of the whites of the eyes, dark-coloured urine or pale bowel motions. Early signs of hepatitis A are a fever, a loss of appetite, stomach pains and nausea."

Gallacher said washing the fruit would not make it safe to eat. 

"If you have any concerns that the fruit you have was on sale between February 27 and March 13 then the best thing is you either cook it or if you have any doubt, put it out," he said.

Some of the affected fruit has been traced and withdrawn from sale, but about 1400 cartoons have been sold and possibly consumed.

Hepatitis A is an infectious liver disease that can be spread through personal contact and contaminated food, according to the Ministry of Health.

Symptoms take six weeks to appear.

Potentially contaminated fruit include New Zealand Beauty apples sold at Countdown, Fresh Choice and Super Value supermarkets in the South Island.

Despite earlier warnings, Fresh Choice and Super Value Supermarkets in the North Island did not receive any potentially affected fruit.

AFFECTED RETAILERS

The following independent retailers in Christchurch received Royal Gala Apples: G Morris and Son, Fresh Connection, United Fresh, Edgeware Supervalue.

The following independent retailers in Auckland received Golden Queen Peaches: Lim Chour (K-Road), Fruit World Pioneer Plaza (Henderson), Manukau Fresh Fruit and Vege, Fresh for Less (Henderson), Save Fruit and Vege Shop (Manukau), Green Field Fruit and Vege (Green Bay), New Lynn Fresh, Fresh World in Hawera.

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