Smoothie Hepatitis Outbreak Grows, New Class Action Filed

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By Steven M. Sellers

Sept. 8 — Tropical Smoothie Cafe LLC should be ordered to notify customers of their possible exposure to hepatitis A in strawberry smoothies served between January and August, according to a class action complaint filed in a Georgia state court Sept. 2 ( Kiker v. Tropical Smoothie Cafe, LLC , Ga. Super. Ct., No. 2016CV279710, filed 9/2/16 ).

Two classes are proposed in the complaint: One for all persons in the U.S. who consumed food at the restaurants, and another to compensate customers who develop the virus.

Named plaintiff Samantha Kiker, of Roswell, Ga., says she decided to get a vaccination after she “consumed food products from Tropical Smoothie Cafe LLC that contained strawberries between January 2016 and August 2016.”

She also contends Tropical Smoothie Cafe “concealed, and then only partially disclosed, the fact that its foods were contaminated with Hepatitis A,” depriving customers of a two-week window within which a vaccination would be effective.

A spokeswoman for Tropical Smoothie Café declined to comment.

The action is the third filed over the outbreak, which the the U.S. Food and Drug Administration traced to strawberries imported from Egypt. Two other suits, including a would-be class action seeking compensation for required vaccinations, are pending against the company in Virginia.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe, based in Atlanta, recalled all of the suspect strawberries Aug. 8, and switched to another supplier for all of its restaurants, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC’s Sept. 8 update on the outbreak states: “Information available at this time does not indicate an ongoing risk of hepatitis A virus infection at Tropical Smoothie Cafes.”

89 Sickened in 7 States

The outbreak total may grow larger still because hepatitis A symptoms may develop as long as 50 days after exposure, according to the CDC.

The first cases were reported in Virginia in early August, and the outbreak has since sickened at least 89 people in seven states, according to the CDC.

Of those cases, 70 were in Virginia as of Sept. 8, with other cases in Maryland (10), New York (1), North Carolina (1), Oregon (1), West Virginia (5) and Wisconsin (1), the CDC said.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver disease usually transmitted by ingestion of even microscopic amounts of fecal matter; by contact with an infected person; or by consumption of contaminated objects, food or drinks.

To contact the reporter on this story: Steven M. Sellers in Washington at Steven M. Sellers

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Patrick at

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