Hepatitis A Cases Linked to Virginia Tropical Smoothie Cafes

Tropical Smoothie Cafe Reston/Credit: Google mapsRecent cases of Hepatitis A may have started with strawberries used in smoothies at Tropical Smoothie Cafe locations in Virginia, state health department officials warn.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe has 96 Virginia stores, including one at Plaza America in Reston.

The Virginia Department of Health said testing indicates that frozen strawberries that originated in Egypt may be to blame for the illnesses. Four of the 10 cases in the commonwealth have occurred in Northern Virginia, the health department said.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe said it has stopped using those strawberries at all stores.

Tropical Smoothie said this in a statement:

Tropical Smoothie Cafe was notified by the Virginia Department of Health about several foodborne illnesses in the state linked to frozen strawberries sourced from Egypt.

Our cafes and their food handling practices have not been implicated in any way — the health department believes this is a single product issue (strawberries) sourced from Egypt. Egyptian strawberries represent a fraction of our overall strawberries purchased, and were predominantly distributed to stores in the Virginia market.

Today, our strawberries are primarily sourced from Mexico and California.

However, in an abundance of caution, we voluntarily pulled all strawberries sourced from Egypt from every cafe in our system, not only the Virginia cafes. Our primary concern is for the safety and well-being of our guests and crew members and we will continue to cooperate with the health authorities.”

Virginia health officials are encouraging anyone who consumed a smoothie with frozen strawberries at a restaurant in the last 50 days to watch for symptoms of Hepatitis A: jaundice, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine and light-colored stools.

Additionally, customers who consumed a smoothie from a Tropical Smoothie Cafe in Virginia that contained frozen strawberries between  Aug. 5 – 8 may still benefit from vaccine or immune globulin to prevent hepatitis A, the health department said.

A vaccine or immune globulin given within two weeks of exposure to hepatitis A virus is effective at preventing the disease, health official said.

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