'There seems to be a pattern': Shoppers, experts concerned by Adonis hep A recalls
A series of food recalls at a Quebec-based grocer over possible hepatitis A contamination is raising concerns among both food security experts and some Gatineau grocery shoppers.
The Adonis Inc. chain opened its first location on Maloney Boulevard in Gatineau this spring and has been the subject of multiple recalls in the last two months.
The recalls have warned people not to consume certain brands of frozen strawberries, fruit juices, and store-made pizzas because they may have been contaminated by the virus.
The latest recall, issued May 18, only targeted the Gatineau location.
All of the recalls have been voluntarily issued by Metro Inc., the chain's parent company.
Quebec's ministry of agriculture, fisheries and food (MAPAQ) said people have reported falling sick. A notice on MAPAQ's website did not say how many illnesses have been reported.
Sylvain Charlebois, professor of food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University in Halifax, said most food-related recalls are due to salmonella, E. coli, or allergens getting into food — but rarely hepatitis A.
"If I were Metro and Adonis I would be concerned," Charlebois said Saturday. "There seems to be a pattern here coming from a few stores or the same stores."
Charlebois said the grocer did the right thing by issuing a voluntary recall to mitigate the risk to the public. Those sorts of proactive recalls, he said, are happening more often.
Still, it's certainly "not good news" for Metro, which is trying to establish the Adonis brand in Gatineau, he added.
"You're trying to grow the market and the grocery business is very tough these days," he said.
"So to actually increase your business, adding your name to the market, you don't want any problems or issues. Or you don't want to be perceived as being a risk to public health. That's the last thing you want to see happen."
Friday recall affects pizzas, pastries
The first recall over hepatitis A concerns was issued on April 14 for the Montana brand of frozen strawberries sold by Adonis Inc.
Two days later, the recall was expanded to include several other products, including "Jus D'Adonis" and Adonis-branded fruit cocktails.
Friday's recall was only issued only for the Gatineau location, a 41,000-square-foot store that specializes in Mediterranean-inspired products.
Foods included in the recall included miscellaneous kibbeh products, pizzas, pâtés, rolls, meat pies, samboussek, and pastries. MAPAQ said there have been no reported illnesses relating to these foods.
People who contract hepatitis A usually suffer fever, general weakness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain, the agency said.
The virus also cause jaundice, dark urine and pale stools, and in some cases symptoms can arise up to seven weeks after eating contaminated food.
Anyone who has consumed the affected products in the last 14 days and who are not vaccinated are asked to contact their healthcare professional, MAPAQ said. They can also call Info-santé at 8-1-1.
Mohamed Abdelrahman was about to take his kids shopping at the Gatineau Adonis Saturday morning when he found out about the recalls.
"Oh, wow. No, I didn't hear about the recalls," he said. "I'm just learning about it now. It's serious. I'm going to have to look it over to see what's going on."
But Denis Laveult, another Adonis shopper, said he wasn't too concerned as long as the company was being transparent.
"I'm a customer at Costco. If there is a recall at Costco they call you at home because, you know, you've got a membership card," he said.
"Here at Adonis, IGA, sometimes they do some recalls — but you have to listen to the media. So that's the problem."
Carol Chartrand bought three boxes of fresh strawberries at the store on Saturday. She said she wasn't too worried about shopping there.
"Just a short while ago they were yelling about the romaine lettuce, and my husband and I both eat romaine lettuce. We just waited until it cleared away and ate it again. No, it doesn't concern me," she said.
Gatineau store 'not called into question'
Consumers who have purchased the affected products are being told not to consume them and to bring them back to the store for a refund.
"We understand that they may be [worried], but the operations at that store are not called into question," said Marie-Claude Bacon, a spokesperson for Metro Inc.
"This is [being issued] on a voluntary basis, and we take the security of our consumers very seriously."
Bacon said the risk of infection from the products listed in the May 18 recall is "really low."