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Local family sues over alleged hepatitis A infections linked to strawberries

Organic Strawberries from Airstream Innovations in Oceanside.
Katie Schoolov
Organic Strawberries from Airstream Innovations in Oceanside.

A lawsuit filed on behalf of a San Diego County family alleges all three family members contracted hepatitis A after eating strawberries just weeks before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it was investigating an outbreak among people who had consumed the fruit.

The suit filed Friday in San Diego Superior Court against FreshKampo alleges the family of three ate FreshKampo brand strawberries in late April, then each suffered symptoms consistent with hepatitis A. One of the family members was hospitalized with acute liver failure resulting from a hepatitis A infection, according to the lawsuit, which states he was discharged one day later.

The lawsuit states that at least 27 people in the United States and Canada were infected, with 16 of those people hospitalized.

The FDA announced last month that it was investigating an apparent outbreak in multiple states linked to fresh organic strawberries, including those branded as FreshKampo. A parallel investigation was taken up in Canada by the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

The FDA warned that people who purchased FreshKampo and HEB branded strawberries between March 5 and April 25, then froze the strawberries for later consumption, should not eat them.

The lawsuit alleges the plaintiffs ate the strawberries on April 16 and April 25, and continue to suffer from diarrhea, loss of appetite, fatigue and digestion issues.

While FreshKampo did not respond to a request for comment regarding the lawsuit, it did issue a statement shortly after the FDA announced its investigation.

"FreshKampo takes food safety seriously, and the health and well- being of consumers are our priorities," the statement read. "Our hearts go out to all those affected by the Hepatitis A outbreak investigated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration."

The company advised consumers to follow the FDA's recommendations and said the potentially affected strawberries are out-of-season and no longer being shipped to stores. FreshKampo also said it would work with health officials and suppliers "to determine where a problem may have occurred along the supply chain and take necessary measures to prevent it from happening again."