September hepatitis A outbreaks linked to Mexican scallions

Nov 20, 2003 (CIDRAP News) – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said today that green onions (scallions) from three Mexican firms have been implicated in hepatitis A outbreaks that occurred in September, but the source of the current outbreak in the Pittsburgh area has not yet been identified.

The agency said it has ordered inspectors at the border to hold for examination any green onions from the three firms. The FDA investigation has linked the firms' products with hepatitis A outbreaks in Tennessee and Georgia in September.

The FDA and other federal and state agencies are continuing to look for the source of the hepatitis A outbreak associated with a Chi Chi's restaurant near Pittsburgh, officials said. The agency is tracing all green-onion shipments that went to the restaurant during the time relevant to the outbreak, which began in late October.

On Nov 15 the agency announced that several recent hepatitis A outbreaks had been linked with green onions and advised consumers to avoid raw or lightly cooked green onions if they were concerned about the risk.

The outbreak in the Pittsburgh area has reached 530 cases, but the rate of new cases has slowed, according to a report by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette today. Although the outbreak has not been conclusively tied to scallions, the viral strain in the outbreak is very similar to strains identified in the earlier outbreaks in southern states, the report said.

The FDA said it is still tracing the source of scallions that were linked to outbreaks in South Carolina in September.

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