Apples and peaches Hepatitis A scare

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Bay of Plenty residents have been warned to throw out any apples or peaches bought from North Island supermarkets and stores for fear of the fruit being contaminated with Hepatitis A.

The Ministry for Primary Industries warning was issued last night and again this morning and cautioned anyone who bought or consumed royal gala apples from Countdown, Fresh Choice and Super Value supermarkets in the North Island and and golden queen peaches from the same supermarkets plus Pak n Save, New World and Four Square supermarkets from Taupo to Kaitaia.

Consumers of New Zealand beauty apples bought from all Countdown, Fresh Choice, and Supervalue supermarkets in the South Island were also warned.

The ministry stated the affected fruit was sold between February 27 and March 13 after a person packing some varieties of apples and peaches in a Hawke's Bay packhouse was diagnosed with Hepatitis A.

Deputy Director General Scott Gallacher said it was important consumers understand the risk of transmission of the virus was relatively low, but the warning was a precaution so people with any related concerns about their health could contact their doctor.

Hepatitis A virus can remain infectious on the surface of fruit for some months and transmit infection to other handlers and consumers.

Mr Gallacher said while some potentially affected fruit had been traced and withdrawn from sale, it was expected about 1400 cartons were sold, with fruit either consumed or still in some people's homes.

The ministry recommended potentially affected fruit to either cook the fruit well before eating, or if in doubt, throw it out.

"The possibility of infection is relatively low, but along with the Ministry of Health, we advise anyone who becomes ill with the following symptoms contact their doctor.

Look out for skin jaundice (yellowish tinge), yellowing of the whites of eyes, dark coloured urine and pale bowel motions. Early signs of Hepatitis A are fever, loss of appetite, stomach pains and nausea.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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