A recent outbreak of hepatitis A in the UK may have been caused by contaminated sun-dried tomatoes. Hepatitis A is carried by human excrement and can be passed on through contaminated food and water. When the condition progresses it causes fatal liver failure.
- Hepatitis is derived from the Greek for liver, hepat- (ἡπατ-), meaning liver, with the suffix -itis.
- Hepatitis A spreads in water and food
- Hepatitis B is spread by sexual contact and sharing of needles
- Hepatitis C is usually spread by blood to blood contact
- Hepatitis D only affects you if you have had Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis E is very rare in the UK
- Vaccines are available for Hepatitis A and B, but there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C
While all recent cases in the UK were successfully treated. hepatitis is a serious disease. The strain that infected people in the UK in November 2011 is the same as one that was traced back to sun-dried tomatoes in the Netherlands in 2010.
However, at the moment there is no known way to test food for the presence of the virus and although this particular strain was present in sun-dried tomatoes in 2010, this does not mean it is restricted to sun-dried tomatoes. The source of the problem could be elsewhere.
There have been no new cases reported in the UK since November 2011, so it is likely that the virus is no longer present in any foods being sold in the UK presently.
The Food Standards Agency have stated: “Sun-dried tomatoes are being investigated as one possible source of the hepatitis A cases. However, no food source has been conclusively identified and no other relevant cases have been reported in the UK.”
This page was written by Jon Wade, principal author and editor of Medimise.