- A California family suing a fruit company says they contracted hepatitis A after eating strawberries.
- Three members of the family got sick with hepatitis A, and one of them was hospitalized, the lawsuit said.
- The FDA is investigating FreshKampo and HEB brand organic strawberries for hepatitis A virus.
A California family is suing the fruit company FreshKampo over a claim that they contracted hepatitis A from the company’s strawberries.
Last month, the Food and Drug Administration launched an outbreak investigation of hepatitis A in strawberries from FreshKampo and another grocery company. There have been a total of 18 hepatitis A cases and 13 hospitalizations linked to the contaminated strawberries that were imported from Baja California, Mexico, according to the FDA.
Hepatitis A is a human fecal infection commonly spread through close contact or ingesting the virus unknowingly from contaminated food and drink.
The virus can be incredibly dangerous, said William Marler, the family’s attorney who said he has litigated dozens of suits from foodborne illness outbreaks.
“I’ve unfortunately had several people over the years have liver transplants due to Hep A, as well as deaths,” Marler told Insider. “If it doesn’t kill you out of the box, usually it takes two to three months for you to get back to normal.”
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs, David Arthur, his wife Michelle Brown, and their daughter, allege they became sick with hepatitis A after consuming FreshKampo strawberries in April.
The family began to experience hepatitis A symptoms between May 5 and May 8. Brown and her daughter suffered from “diarrhea, loss of appetite, fatigue, and digestion issues.” Meanwhile, Arthur had “clammy skin, stomach upset, and body aches” as well as “lethargy, pain, extreme fatigue, loss of appetite, dark urine, and jaundice,” the lawsuit says.
Brown and her daughter have recovered, but Arthur’s condition worsened until he was briefly hospitalized with acute liver failure. Arthur was discharged on May 20, but it wasn’t until May 27 that the FDA warned of its investigation into the hepatitis A outbreak in strawberries, according to the lawsuit.
Marler said in a press release that this is not the first time imported fruit has caused a hepatitis A infection outbreak, citing previous outbreaks investigated by the FDA in 2016 and 2019.
“The FDA and retailers need to do a far better job of inspecting so we can avoid human fecal contamination,” Marler said in the press release.
The lawsuit alleges FreshKampo was negligent in its sale of the strawberries, which became contaminated with HIV and were “not fit for human consumption, and not reasonably safe because adequate warnings or instructions were not provided.”
In a statement to Insider, a FreshKampo spokesperson said their “hearts go out to everyone affected by the Hepatitis A contamination associated with fresh organic strawberries.”
“As a defendant, we, unfortunately, cannot address the specific issues in the case because it is under litigation. But we do look forward to the opportunity to discuss the details in court,” the company said. “While it is still unclear how or where the contamination may have occurred along the supply chain, we continue to work with health officials.”
While the parties will have to wait for the FDA to conduct its analysis, Marler said he believes it was unlikely the outbreak would trace back to one infected individual. Rather, he said, the outbreak may have come from a contaminated water supply or contaminants in the washing or production processes. But in terms of the litigation, it doesn’t matter where the contamination began, he said.
“This human fecal virus on strawberries, it’s not something that a consumer can wash off,” Marler said. “From a legal liability point of view, you can’t sell, you know, strawberries with human feces on them.”