Maui couple sues over frozen berry mix linked to Hepatitis outbreak

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Maui couple is suing over the frozen berry mix linked to Hepatitis A cases in Hawaii and seven other states.

According to the complaint, Jenabe and Motoko Caldwell purchased Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend frozen berry and pomegranate seed mix at a Costco store in Kahului on April 13.

The Caldwell's say they were tested and vaccinated for the Hepatitis A because they ate or were exposed to people who ate the product.

"Costco did an excellent job of notifying customers of their potential exposure to hepatitis A and encouraging them to receive proper treatment to prevent infection," said attorney William Marler.

Marler noted that the class action lawsuit asks that all class members be compensated for the cost of receiving a hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin injection and hepatitis A testing in addition to time missed from work or other expenses incurred due to exposure to the virus.

"We're also asking Townsend Farms to reimburse public health agencies for the costs associated with providing shot clinics and outbreak-related investigations.  Taxpayers should not be held responsible for this company's sub-par food safety practices," Marler concluded.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the outbreak of hepatitis A has grown to 87 people.

The CDC said Tuesday that illnesses have been reported in Arizona, California Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Washington.

Hepatitis A is a virus that can cause fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, diarrhea, and yellow skin and eyes. Illness usually occurs from two weeks to as long as 50 days after consumption of contaminated food or water (e.g., prepared by an infected food handler who did not properly wash their hands or from produce contaminated in the field). Persons should seek medical attention immediately should they develop symptoms.

"Hepatitis A infection is a vaccine preventable disease, and fortunately, most children and adolescents have been vaccinated as part of routine childhood vaccination recommendations," said Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist. "However, many adults have not been vaccinated and will be susceptible,"

Anyone who consumed the implicated product during the past month is encouraged to consult their medical provider regarding vaccination. Most persons with hepatitis A infection will recover without complications but may require supportive therapy and close monitoring by their physician. All cases of suspected hepatitis A infection should be reported to the Department of Health by calling (808) 586-4586.

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