Minnesota health officials are reminding consumers to avoid eating fresh, non-organic blackberries purchased between Sept. 9 and Sept. 30 from Fresh Thyme Farmers Market grocery stores, following an advisory from the  Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) last week.

The reminder comes after one case of hepatitis A associated with this outbreak was identified in Minnesota. The person was hospitalized and has since recovered. 

If you purchased fresh, non-organic blackberries from Fresh Thyme Farmers Market between Sept. 9 and Sept. 30 and then froze them to use around the holidays, do not eat them.  Throw them away.

Contact your health care provider if you think you may have become ill from eating these blackberries. Symptoms of hepatitis A infection include vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), as well as dark urine and clay colored stools. If you believe you have eaten these berries in the last two weeks, talk to your health care provider about getting the hepatitis A vaccine—this can help you avoid getting sick.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is continuing to work with MDA, the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other partners to investigate the outbreak of hepatitis A associated with eating fresh, non-organic blackberries purchased from Fresh Thyme Famers Market stores between Sept. 9 and Sept. 30.

Nationally, there are 14 cases from five states (Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin). Illnesses started between Oct. 8, 2019, and Nov. 15, 2019. Eight people have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported. Information gathered in the investigation shows the berries were shipped from a distribution center to Fresh Thyme Farmers Market stores in Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

These hepatitis A cases associated with blackberries are separate from the hepatitis A outbreak in Minnesota that is primarily affecting people experiencing homelessness or unstable housing, people who use street drugs (injection and non-injection) , and those who have been incarcerated recently.

Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent hepatitis A. Vaccination is recommended for all children starting at age 1 year, for travelers to certain countries and for people at high risk for infection. While hepatitis A vaccination has been recommended for children since 2006, many adults have not been vaccinated for hepatitis A. Anyone who wants to be protected against hepatitis A can talk to their health care provider about getting vaccinated.

Fresh Thyme has issued the following statement:

The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control, in conjunction with other state and local agencies, have contacted us concerning a recent Hepatitis A outbreak in three states in the Midwest affecting an unspecified number of individuals. These agencies are investigating and believe that affected people may have consumed fresh conventional (non-organic) blackberries between September 9 and September 30, 2019. We are fully cooperating with these agencies on the investigation and are awaiting next steps.

At this time, there is no reason to believe that any of the product was contaminated via handling in our stores. In addition, the agencies are ONLY concerned with product purchased between September 9 and September 30; product purchased or consumed outside of these dates are NOT subject to the investigation. We are working with these agencies to identify our suppliers and isolate the source of this contamination. Fresh Thyme takes the health and safety of our customers and our team members very seriously. Fresh Thyme Farmers Market has a stringent process for ensuring compliance to all local, state and federal health and hygiene regulations.

Should any customers have any of the fresh conventional blackberries purchased between September 9 and September 30, remaining in their refrigerators or freezers, they should be discarded immediately or returned to Fresh Thyme for a refund. In Douglas County, NE, if you purchased any of these berries between September 9 and September 30, and still have them, please take them to the local health department for testing.

Again, Fresh Thyme is committed to the health and safety of our customers, and we will continue to work closely with these agencies to determine the source of the contamination.

MDA issues Consumer Advisory for Non-Organic Fresh Thyme Farmers Market Blackberries