Frozen pomegranate arils —the fleshy part surrounding the seed—originating in Egypt have sparked recalls in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, in the latest instance of food imports being linked to hepatitis A outbreaks.

NSW Health has confirmed all seven victims of hepatitis A infections reported eating the frozen fruit seeds from Australian supermarket giant Coles before contracting the illness. Coles is the exclusive distributor of Creative Gourmet frozen pomegranate arils.

The public health agency said in a statement: “Genetic testing available to date on some of the cases has identified a unique strain of hepatitis A. NSW Health is also working with other states and territories to determine if they also have locally acquired cases of hepatitis A with this strain—genotype 1B.”

NSW Health is collaborating with the NSW Food Authority and Australian manufacturing firm Entyce Foods to investigate the matter.

NSW Food Authority chief executive Lisa Szabo noted that only imported frozen pomegranate arils are implicated and there is no link to Australian grown pomegranates. Symptoms of hepatitis A can take up to 50 days to develop after contracting the virus, so health officials are urging anyone who has eaten the recalled fruit to monitor their health in the next few weeks.

In the US, imported frozen fruit including pomegranates and strawberries has been known to cause multi-state hepatitis A outbreaks, which recently made 1,500 people ill and resulted in 50 deaths. US health officials recently linked frozen strawberries from Egypt to an outbreak among customers of smoothie retailer Tropical Smoothie.

In January, Hawaiian health officials found a case of hepatitis A after a worker at the Honolulu-based Wah Kung restaurant contracted the virus. Hawaii state epidemiologist Sarah Park said: “Because of the limited two-week window to prevent infection among those potentially exposed, we are alerting the public as a precaution. We encourage people to take appropriate action to protect their health and prevent possible new cases in our community.”