THE clean up from a hepatitis A outbreak linked to frozen berries has landed in court, with Patties Foods seeking millions of dollars in compensation from the supplier that sourced the infected fruit from China.
Patties Food was forced to pull its Nanna's and Creative Gourmet brand berries off supermarket shelves in early 2015 after the Victorian Department of Health found a contamination in some of its products.
At least eighteen people contracted the infection, which is spread through faecal matter, and can cause fever, vomiting, fatigue, and in extreme cases, death.
In a statement of claim filed in the Supreme Court of Victoria, Patties says Australian food wholesaler Entyce Food Ingredients breached a supply agreement by providing food that was not safe for human consumption.
Patties said it had to dispose of $3.8 million worth of berries held in storage, and as of May had paid out $41,389 in compensation to seven customers who were infected from the berries.
The company incurred another $5 million in loses because of the outbreak and recall, including spending $196,576 advertising the recall, $198,591 running a call centre, $136,942 employing public relations professionals, $597,788 getting removing products from shelves, and $24,920 on social media.
Patties, best known for making Four'n Twenty pies, says its loss of earnings totalled $4.4 million and is seeking damages plus interest.
Entyce is contesting the claim, and rejects that it owed Patties a warranty that its berries be uncontaminated and fit for human consumption.
Patties sold the Creative Gourmet brand to Entyce in December 2015 for an undisclosed price, although Patties told shareholders it would generate $1.8 million in proceeds. Patties also phased berries out of its Nana's range at the time, ending an association with a product that had plagued it for most of 2015.
Private equity firm Pacific Capital Partners then bought bought Patties for $230 million in a deal completed in September last year.
Creative Gourmet, under Entyce's ownership, again recalled berries earlier this year after another hepatitis A scare.
Insurer IAG is running the case on Patties' behalf, a company spokeswoman said. Entyce did not return calls. The case is ongoing.
- This story first appeared on the Sydney Morning Herald site.