FDA to detain pomegranate seeds from Turkey

July 3, 2013

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will detain shipments of pomegranate seeds from Goknur Gida Maddeleri Ithalat Ihracat Tic (Goknur Foodstuffs Import Export Trading) of Turkey when they are offered for import into the United States. This action results from an investigation by the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local health authorities into a multi-state outbreak of Hepatitis A illnesses associated with Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend, a frozen food blend containing pomegranate seed mix.

By combining information gained from the FDA’s traceback and traceforward investigations and the CDC’s epidemiological investigation, the FDA and CDC have determined that the most likely vehicle for the Hepatitis A virus appears to be a common shipment of pomegranate seeds from Goknur used by Townsend Farms to make the Townsend Farms and Harris Teeter Organic Antioxidant Blends that were recalled in June. These seeds were also used by Scenic Fruit Company to make their recently recalled Woodstock Frozen Organic Pomegranate Kernels.

“This outbreak highlights the food safety challenge posed by today’s global food system,” said Michael R. Taylor, Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine. “The presence in a single product of multiple ingredients from multiple countries compounds the difficulty of finding the cause of an illness outbreak. The Hepatitis A outbreak shows how we have improved our ability to investigate and respond to outbreaks, but also why we are working to build a food safety system that more effectively prevents them.”

The FDA reviewed records and determined that the pomegranate seeds from this shipment were the only ingredient common to all of the recalled Townsend Farms and Harris Teeter Organic Antioxidant Blend.

The FDA will be working with the firms that have distributed pomegranate seeds from this shipment from Turkey to help ensure that all recipients of these seeds are notified.

The CDC reports that as of June 27, 127 people were exposed to Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend. The illnesses have been reported in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wisconsin. The people who were reported ill in Wisconsin were exposed to the product in California.

The CDC reports that the outbreak strain of Hepatitis A virus (HAV), belonging to genotype 1B, was found in clinical specimens of 56 people in seven states. This strain is rarely seen in the Americas but circulates in North Africa and the Middle East. 

Press release