A native Hawaiian dish called poke may be involved in a Hepatitis A recall involving 2,300 pounds of frozen ahi tuna. No illnesses have yet been reported, but there may be illnesses linked to the recall. The local health agencies urge Hawaiian residents and tourists to be mindful of their health, especially as it may take up to 50 days before symptoms show (if at all).
On or about May 2, 2017, wholesale distributer Tropic Fish Hawai‘i, LLC, a subsidiary of CMU and Associates on the Big Island, announced the recall of its frozen ahi cubed tuna products. The products, imported from Indonesia, were primarily sold on O’ahu. They were distributed between April 27, 2017 and May 1, 2017. The company has confirmed that they have stopped distribution at this time, after routine testing showed Hepatitis A in the tested products.
The Hawai‘i State Department of Health Investigation
Currently, the Hawai’i State Department of Health (DOH) is working with Tropic Fish Hawaii, LLC concerning this recall. According to the DOH’s Chief of its Food Safety Program, Peter Oshiro,
“Times Supermarket and Tropic Fish notified the department as soon as they learned of the test results on the imported fish…All of the product is being traced, collected and held by the distributor. Fortunately, in this case, Tropic Fish Hawaii kept excellent records and has been contacting all retailers and pulling the product quickly.”
The DOH confirmed that they are working with federal authorities and inspecting the company’s facilities to ensure proper food safety practices were followed. The product is currently under an embargo while the investigation is ongoing.
Where were the products sold?
A list of all known stores who had the products include:
- ABC Stores #38 (205 Lewers Street)
- Aloha Sushi Nimitz
- G.P. Hawaiian Food Catering
- Maili Sunset Bar & Grill
- Shima’s Market
- Times Aiea
- Times Kailua
- Times Kaneohe
- Times Kunia
- Times Liliha
- Times Mililani
- Times Waipahu
The products may have also been purchased by food service companies or restaurants.
What is Hepatitis A?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define Hepatitis A infections as a severe liver disease. According to their website, Hepatitis A “is spread from person to person through contact with the feces (stool) of people who are infected, which can easily happen if someone does not wash his or her hands properly. You can also get hepatitis A from food, water, or objects contaminated with [the virus].”
What if I Ate Ahi Tuna? Could I Be Sick?
According to DOH’s State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park,
“Because it generally takes two weeks for those infected to develop symptoms of hepatitis A, vaccination or immune globulin can still provide some protection against the disease for those who may have been exposed in the last week …We remind those who received their first dose of hepatitis A vaccination during an earlier outbreak on Oahu to obtain their second dose for long term immunity.”
Dr. Park also commented, “In this case, it’s entirely preventable, which isn’t always the case … It’s thought that if you do get vaccinated with that first dose right now in this early phase you could prevent the symptoms."
The DOH is urging Hawaiian residents and those who recently visited the island of O’ahu, and who may have eaten raw ahi tuna or poke, to be cautious and get vaccinated. “Be sure to go see your personal physician and there's still time to get vaccinated,” says Mr. Oshiro.
The onset of symptoms may take up to 50 days to show. In children, they may not show at all.
Meanwhile, keeping a lookout for the signs and symptoms of Hepatitis A is recommended. Symptoms may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach pain
- Grey-colored bowel movements
- Dark Urine
- Joint Pain
- Yellowing of the eyes or skin (Jaundice)
Symptoms typically last less than 2 months. But some people can show symptoms or be ill for as long as 6 months.
Those who may have ingested the affected products, and are not vaccinated for Hepatitis A, are urged to immediately contact their physician. Urgent medical attention may prevent future long-term complications.
The best form of prevention of spreading Hepatitis A is to ensure that good hygienic practices are being followed. For example, washing hands and keeping surfaces clean is important. The DOH mentions on its website that “[g]ood hygiene, including handwashing after using the bathroom, changing, diapers, and before preparing or eating food, plays an important role in preventing Hepatitis A disease.”
However, the best form of prevention is vaccination. During the last Hepatitis A outbreak in Hawai’i, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put together a handy list of those who were recommended to be vaccinated for Hepatitis A. These include:
- “All children at age 1 year;”
- “Travelers to countries that have high rates of Hepatitis A;”
- “Family members and caregivers of recent adoptees from countries where Hepatitis A is common;”
- “People with chronic (lifelong) liver diseases, such as hepatitis B or hepatitis C;”
- “People who are treated with clotting-factor concentrates;” and
- “People who work with Hepatitis A infected animals or in a Hepatitis A research laboratory.”
The DOH provided further guidance on the prevention of Hepatitis A and vaccinations:
“If you are not protected against Hepatitis A and are exposed to someone with the disease, contact your healthcare provider immediately. Administration of the Hepatitis A vaccine or Immune globulin (IG) [a substance made from human blood plasma that contains antibodies that protect against infection and provides short-term protection] may help to prevent infection with Hepatitis A disease if given within the first two weeks after exposure.”
The good news is when a person recovers from Hepatitis A infection, they develop antibodies that protect them from the Hepatitis A virus for life.
For more information on Hepatitis A, Hawai’i’s previous outbreak related to scallops, or handwashing, please visit www.unsafefoods.com
Robins Cloud LLP is Helping Potential Victims of Hepatitis A
Robins Cloud LLP is a Plaintiffs’ firm dedicated to helping those who have become ill from contaminated food or beverages. We will continue to follow and investigate the details of this recall. If you or someone in your family has become ill after eating frozen ahi tuna or poke made from frozen ahi tuna, Robins Cloud LLP is available to discuss any questions, concerns, and the legal process with you. You can contact us 24 hours a day, seven days a week for a free, no obligation consultation.