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Group Sues Multiple Companies In Wake Of Hepatitis Smoothie Outbreak

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter

Victims of the hepatitis outbreak linked to smoothies from a popular national chain launched a new lawsuit Tuesday aimed at holding the company and product distributors accountable.

Seven victims who contracted hepatitis A after drinking strawberry smoothies from Tropical Smoothie Cafe joined the lawsuit filed in Fairfax County. It is the first legal action taken against distributors and transporters of the tainted strawberries, which includes companies from New York, California and Texas. Officials in Virginia said Tuesday that 90 people are infected with hepatitis A, which is now affecting seven states, reports the Richmond Times Dispatch.

It is the third lawsuit filed against Tropical Smoothie Cafe since the outbreak. Across all states officials have identified 109 cases of hepatitis A linked to Tropical Smoothie Cafe.

“This outbreak was absolutely avoidable,” Salvatore Zambri, a lawyer for one of the victims, said in a statement Tuesday. “We are committed to unearthing all of the facts to get to the bottom of why and how food tainted with such an insidious virus – hepatitis A – made its way into the public domain.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified 10 cases in Maryland, five in West Virginia and one case each in New York, North Carolina, Oregon and Wisconsin. Health officials revised the window of infection to anyone who drank a strawberry smoothie between May and Aug. 8, despite previous assurances that only customers who drank smoothies between Aug. 5-8 were at risk.

The company destroyed the tainted shipment of Egyptian strawberries Aug. 8, and said it voluntarily pulled all recent strawberry shipments in all locations, including cafes outside Virginia. Symptoms can show at any point between 15 to 50 days after exposure. Symptoms of hepatitis A include yellowing of the skin and eyes, fever, vomiting, fatigue and loss of appetite.

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