Hepatitis A was in Green Onions

The FDA has confirmed that the outbreak of hepatitis A that struck restaurant diners in the US earlier this fall was caused by green onions grown in Mexico. This modern epidemiological mystery is considered solved because the hepatitis A virus found in stricken residents of Tennessee, Georgia and Pennsylvania was virtually identical to the virus found in residents living along the US-Mexican border where the green onions were originally harvested and processed.

The FDA offers the following advice:: "Cook green onions thoroughly. This minimizes the risk of illness by reducing or eliminating the virus. Cook in a casserole or saut in a skillet. Check food purchased at restaurants and delicatessens and ask whether menu items contain raw or lightly cooked green onions. Consumers who wish to avoid food that contains raw or lightly cooked green onions should specifically request that raw or lightly cooked green onions not be added to their food. Foods such as freshly prepared salsa and green salads often contain raw green onions."

Comment: Just because the green onion harvest is over for this year, at least in this location, we should still remember that contaminated fruits and vegetables, no matter where they come from, can make us sick. Raw produce needs to be sufficiently washed, cooked or, in some cases, avoided altogether. And just because some produce may be labeled as "organic" or "tripled-washed" or "ready-to-eat" does not mean that it is safe to consume it right out of the package.

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Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.
Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editors, MedicineNet.com


FDA Update on Recent Hepatitis A Outbreaks Associated With Green Onions From Mexico