Maui News

Maui Couple Files Class Action Suit Over Hep A Berries

June 11, 2013, 10:34 AM HST
* Updated June 11, 10:57 AM
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Packaging from product included in the recall. Image courtesy CDC.

Packaging from product included in the recall. Image courtesy CDC.

By Wendy Osher

A couple has filed a class action suit after purchasing frozen berries from Costco in Kahului that have since been recalled for a link to a hepatitis A outbreak.

Attorneys for Jenabe and Motoko Caldwell say the couple purchased the Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend frozen berry and pomegranate seed mix at the Kahului retailer on Maui on April 13, 2013.

Attorneys released information today saying the plaintiffs received immune globulin injections after becoming aware that the food product they had purchased was being recalled for potential contamination.

The lawsuit was filed by by the Seattle-based law firm, Marler Clark, firm that represents victims of foodborne illness.

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The suit was filed on behalf of the Caldwell’s and all other Hawaiʻi residents who required testing, or received vaccinations or injections to prevent hepatitis A infections after eating the recalled item.

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According to information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 87 people had been infected with acute hepatitis A that may be linked with consumption of the contaminated product. The information was accurate as of June 10, 2013, however, the numbers authorities say, are expected to change as the investigation continues.

The count includes infections in eight states: Arizona, California Colorado, Hawaiʻi, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Washington.

As of June 3, officials from the Hawaiʻi Department of Health said they were investigating three adult cases of hepatitis A infection, two on Oʻahu and one on Kauaʻi.  The Honolulu Star-Advertiser published an update on June 8, saying five adults in Hawaiʻi had been diagnosed with hepatitis A after eating the product.

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According to information from the CDC, a hepatitis A vaccination can prevent illness if given within two weeks of exposure to the contaminated 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, in a press release detailing the class action suit.

Marler noted that the class action lawsuit asks that all class members be compensated for the cost of receiving vaccinations or injections to prevent infection; as well as compensation for 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 stated.

According to the recall information published by the US Food and Drug Administration, pomegranate seeds processed in Turkey, may be linked to the illness outbreak.

Officials with the Hawaiʻi Department of Health describe hepatitis A as a virus that can cause fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, diarrhea, and yellow skin and eyes.  Authorities say illness usually occurs from two weeks to as long as 50 days after consumption of contaminated products.

According to the recall notice, the product was sold at Costco warehouse stores under the product name Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend, 3 lb. bag and UPC 0 78414 404448.

The recalled codes are reportedly located on the back of the package with the words “BEST BY” followed by the code T012415 sequentially through T053115, followed by a letter. All of these letter designations are included in this recall for the lot codes listed.

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