Slater and Gordon has been contacted by a number of people who have contracted hepatitis A after consuming recalled frozen berry products and will investigate a potential class action against the manufacturer, Patties Foods Ltd.
Slater and Gordon Principal Lawyer Julie Clayton said the reports that were emerging about the nature of the contamination scare may give rise to claims for compensation. She encouraged anyone who consumed the contaminated berries and contracted the virus to come forward.
“Manufacturers of goods, such as the frozen berries in question, have a number of stringent obligations towards consumers under Australian law, and among the most important of these is a clear requirement that any goods they produce must be free from safety defects,” Ms Clayton said.
“This means that the safety of goods must be of a standard that people generally are entitled to expect for a product of that nature – clearly, any food product contaminated with a virus like hepatitis A fails to meet this test.
“The symptoms and consequences of contracting hepatitis A can be very unpleasant, and can take some time to fully subside.
“Slater and Gordon will fully investigate claims for compensation for individuals affected by the hepatitis A virus.
“If consumers have contracted the virus because of a manufacturer’s conduct, they deserve to be fully compensated.”
Ms Clayton said the Australian Consumer Law gives rights to individuals who were injured as a result of a safety defect in goods to claim compensation against the relevant manufacturer.
“Given the number of people who may have been exposed to the virus, and who are suffering similar complications as a result, the prospect of a class action against the manufacturer is being actively pursued.”
Ms Clayton noted that because the virus could sometimes take several weeks to be detected, unfortunately it was likely that more cases may emerge in the near future.
She recommended that anyone who is diagnosed with hepatitis A after consuming the recalled frozen berries seek legal advice about their circumstances, and consider taking steps to preserve any evidence they might have.
“Slater and Gordon has acted for victims of many different food-contamination scares in the past, including previous cases of contamination with hepatitis A,” she said.
“One of the difficulties that can often emerge in such claims is in proving that people acquired and consumed the affected food, since we typically tend not to keep shopping receipts or unused foods for long periods of time.
“We note that Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Rosemary Lester, has advised consumers to immediately dispose of any packs of recalled berries. We would encourage anyone diagnosed with Hepatitis A who is still in possession of a partially-used pack of recalled berries to contact Slater and Gordon to discuss how best to follow this directive while ensuring that relevant evidence is preserved.
“For anyone who thinks they might be affected by the recalled frozen berries, we’d recommend that they hold on to any receipts or other proof of their purchase or use of the berries.
“Anyone who has thrown out their receipts might want to take some time to write down whatever they can recall about when and where they purchased and consumed the berries, to ensure this information isn’t forgotten.”
Under the Australian Consumer Law, Australian distributers of imported goods can be held responsible for products’ safety to the same extent that they would if they had grown or manufactured them themselves.
“If the current hepatitis A scare is definitively linked to the manufacturer, Patties Foods Ltd, then we would hope it will do the right thing and compensate those affected without forcing them to take legal action,” she said.
Anyone who believes they may have contracted hepatitis A after consuming the recalled frozen berry products is encouraged to contact Slater and Gordon on 1800 555 777.