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Virginia Beach farmer gives advice in wake of FDA report on organic strawberries

The FDA is reporting a possible link between a hepatitis A outbreak and batches of organic strawberries shipped nationwide.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is asking people who bought organic strawberries between March 5 and April 25 of this year to check their fridge or freezer for where they were grown.

Investigators with the FDA are reporting a possible link between a hepatitis A outbreak and organic strawberries.

The FDA identified about 17 hepatitis cases in California, Minnesota and North Dakota. Distributors sold the fruit to a number of retailers such as Aldi, Kroger, Trader Joe's, HEB, Safeway, Sprouts Farmer's Markets, Weis Markets and Walmart.

The brands of the strawberries listed under the warning are "FreshKampo" and "HEB." 

While these strawberries are past their expiration date, the FDA said people who froze their strawberries for later use may want to throw them out if they bought them at any of the marked stores.

It's upsetting news for farmers like Robert Vaughan who prides himself on having fresh, healthy produce. He said it's not surprising massive produce distributors see problems like this.

"Know where your food is coming from, know how it's grown, and more importantly, support your local farmers," said Vaughan as he stood in the middle of his strawberry field.

Vaughan said he and other local farmers don't have a wide distribution of their produce and mainly keep it in Hampton Roads. He said a majority of his strawberries are sold at his stand, but he does sell to some restaurants nearby.

"We don't have a problem with the USDA having recalls because we buy everything locally and know where it came from," said Vaughan. "Mainly because it's fresh...and fresh almost always means good." 

He said just because a product is organic, doesn't mean it's always mean safe to eat. He said you're less likely to run into contamination when you pick fruit fresh off the stem at your local farm because fewer people handled it; therefore, less likelihood of something affecting the product.

The CDC said hepatitis A symptoms usually appear two to seven weeks after infection. Those include yellow skin or eyes, lack of an appetite, stomach pain, fever, and even joint pain.

Not everyone infected with hepatitis a will experience symptoms. The CDC said adults are more likely than children to show symptoms of hepatitis a.

If you are experiencing these symptoms or bought organic strawberries from the marked stores during that time period, the FDA recommends talking to your doctor.


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