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US Specialists Attempt to Trace Cause of Hepatitis A Outbreak - 2003-11-26

A team of specialists from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is traveling to Mexico in an attempt to find the cause of a deadly Hepatitis A outbreak in the United States. The outbreak is blamed for the deaths of at least three people and the sickening of hundreds of others in four states.

A significant part of the investigation will focus on four suppliers of green onions, which have failed to meet stringent health regulations. Dr. Javier Trujillo who is the Health Director at Mexico's Agriculture Ministry explains that three of the companies are owned by U.S. citizens.

Although the contaminated onions have not been traced to the four firms, Mexican authorities are inviting an FDA team to work with Mexican specialists to find the source.

Dr. Trujillo explains why conditions did not meet standards at the four packing houses in question.

"The misses were, quality of water for washing the onions in order to get rid of the dirt," he said. "And secondly the quality of the water in order to produce the ice in order to pack the onions."

Although nothing has yet been proven, Mexican onion growers and exporters are witnessing a large decline in their sales as hundreds of orders are canceled.

Following the recent bi-national commission meeting in Washington, Mexico is pledging to further tighten its health checks system and create disease free, certified zones for its agricultural produce.