Taiwan’s Food and Drug Administration Director Wu Shou-mei said the hepatitis A virus was detected in a batch of Kirkland Signature Three Berry Blend during a border inspection on April 10, after which the Kaohsiung Department of Health the next day took samples from five other batches of berries sold at Costco, finding that one of them was contaminated.
Starting on April 29, batch-by-batch border inspections were conducted on all frozen berries imported by Costco, she said. A batch of frozen blueberries was found to be contaminated on last week, leading to the suspension of all frozen berry imports by the company and all frozen berries sold at its stores being pulled from the shelves on Friday for testing.
The FDA ordered Costco to submit an improvement plan by yesterday, Wu said, adding that the Kaohsiung health department fined the company NT$7.5 million (US$244,069).
Deputy Minister of Health and Welfare Victor Wang said that as the virus was detected in frozen berries imported from different countries, the suspension would remain in place until the company finds the source of the contamination and addresses the issue.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Deputy Director-General Philip Lo said that since the FDA on April 28 announced that contaminated berries had been found, the CDC was notified about 20 cases of suspected acute hepatitis A, with five people among them having eaten frozen berries bought from Costco in the prior 60 days. However, the five tested negative.
As of Tuesday, 32 local cases of hepatitis A were confirmed, but contact tracing showed that none of them had eaten frozen berries bought from Costco within 60 days, he said, adding that the CDC would continue to monitor the situation.