Former USDA inspector says Hepatitis A outbreak was preventable - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Former USDA inspector says Hepatitis A outbreak was preventable

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

The latest numbers won't be released until Tuesday, but so far we know at least nine Arizonans have been impacted by the Costco berries Hepatitis A outbreak. Now a former USDA inspector said it all could have been prevented.

"I was a contract inspector under the USDA's national organic programs for five years from 1998 until 2003," said Mischa Popoff.

Popoff knows the organic industry.  As a former farmer and USDA inspector, he says he's seen this before.

"It's kind of like deja vu, I felt like well we're really missing the point here. And the point is we should be testing," Popoff said.

Popoff said all food is tested, but only organic food uses manure for fertilizer.  He said testing for pathogens, which isn't done now, is pretty cheap.

"Oh, it's so inexpensive if we're talking about pathogens from fecal contamination of uncomposted manure. It's about $20 for a fecal califorum test," Popoff said.

We don't know for sure yet where the Hepatitis A came from, but Popoff said theories that it started with an infected worker's dirty hands just don't make sense.

"Now stop and think how unlikely that is. Because first you shouldn't be working in the food industry if you have Hepatitis A, but even if you are, how do you infect all the berries?  It becomes mathematically unlikely that it's a person with hepatitis on his or her hands that transferred it. Much more likely that its manure into the field," he said.

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