Costco And Harris Teeter Scramble After Berries Carry Hepatitis

An seven-state outbreak of hepatitis A has been traced to frozen berries sold at Costco (NASDAQ:COST) and Harris Teeter (NYSE:HTSI) stores, Supermarket News reported on Tuesday (June 4).

The infection was traced by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to a frozen berry and pomegranate seed mix from by an Oregon producer, Townsend Farms. That particular strain of hepatitis A is rare in the U.S. but common in North Africa and the Middle East, the CDC said. The illness has been reported in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Hawaii and California.

Harris Teeter said it has issued a recall. Costco said it has notified customers who bought the berry mix. (It's not clear whether Costco used its CRM data to identify who it needed to contact, but that seems like a natural for the membership-based chain.)

How did a Middle Eastern strain of hepatitis A get into berries from Oregon? By not being in berries from Oregon. Townsend Farms' berry mix contained produce that originated in the U.S., Argentina, Chile and Turkey. The grower said it was an early adopter of the Produce Traceability Initiative and can trace all produce back to the farm on which it was grown.

As disturbing as it is to have this kind of outbreak, it's still a little heartening to know that the tainted product could be traced back to the source quickly—and then traced forward again, to look for other places the product might have made its way to the public. Once the bad product is identified and traced back to a store, all the supply chain and CRM technology that was designed for inventory control and marketing works at least as well to keep the disease threat in check.

That's good—but better would be if it was never needed.

For more:

- See this Supermarket News story

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Grocers Face Bigger Labels, New Meat Handling Rules From USDA
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