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Woman infected with hepatitis A after eating Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Medjool dates

A 64-year-old woman is pursuing a legal claim against Sainsbury’s after she contracted hepatitis A which she believes is linked to a contaminated batch of Medjool dates.

Posted on 21 March 2022

Jillian Dennell, of Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, purchased four 200g boxes of Taste the Difference Medjool Dates between 04 January 2021 and 25 February 2021.

These dates were recalled by Sainsbury’s in April 2021 due to concerns that they had been contaminated with the Hepatitis A virus.

Jillian began to feel ill in late February 2021, and by the start of March began to experience severe fatigue, weakness and intermittent chest pain. Her symptoms worsened, and on 6 March 2021 she was rushed to Barnet Hospital by ambulance.

Doctors were initially puzzled as to what could be causing her illness, however a diagnosis of hepatitis A was eventually made. Hepatitis A is not endemic in the UK, and is primarily spread when an uninfected person ingests food or water that is contaminated with the faeces of an infected person.

Jillian spent five days in hospital while she underwent treatment and was allowed home on 11 March.

Photograph of Jillian Dennell

While in hospital Jillian was contacted by Public Health England, who had been investigating a number of hepatitis A cases. Based on information collected from Jillian and others who were affected, a Food Alert, reference FSA-PRIN-25-2021, was issued by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). The Food Alert states that “these products might be contaminated with Hepatitis A”.

Jillian, who believes that her hepatitis A infection was caused by eating Sainsbury’s Medjool Dates, continued to feel fatigued for several months after diagnosis. Jillian’s recovery was slow and was only able to walk a mile on 18 July 2021, over four months after being diagnosed with hepatitis A. It was not until the end of August 2021 that her health returned to normal.

Jillian is a full-time carer for her elderly mother. During her hospital stay and long recovery from her hepatitis A infection her mother’s care was severely disrupted, costing Jillian thousands of pounds in care home fees. The episode was highly distressing for Jillian’s mother, who has dementia and relies on her daughter for her day-to-day care needs.

Jillian is represented by the Food Safety Team led by Michelle Victor. Jillian said:

“I am convinced that the terrible bout of hepatitis A that I suffered was caused by the Sainsbury’s dates. The illness caused me immense suffering and affected my wider family as I am full-time carer to my mother who has dementia. We had to put in place other arrangements for her care while I was ill for so many months. Not only that but I have had to bring forward my retirement date because I just wasn’t well enough to continue working until my planned retirement in March 2022 when I will be 65.”

Leigh Day food safety solicitors Angela Bruno and Andrew Jackson represent other clients who believe they were infected by Hepatitis A as a result of eating dates from the same recalled batch as Jillian. She alleges that the most likely cause of her acute hepatitis A infection was her consumption of Sainsbury’s Medjool Dates, which were subject to a voluntary recall.

On 13 April 2021, Sainsbury’s announced a voluntary Product Recall of its ‘Taste the Difference’ Medjool Dates, pack sizes 200g and 500g, with a supplier/ site code of K0014 EW. A Food Alert, reference FSA-PRIN-25-2021, was issued by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). The Food Alert states that “these products might be contaminated with Hepatitis A”.

On 14 May 2021, the FSA issued a Food Alert confirming that Marks and Spencer had recalled their ‘Stuffed Medjool Date Selection (350g) product due to possible contamination with hepatitis A.

Leigh Day is not aware of any other date products that were recalled in the UK during 2020 or 2021 for suspected contamination with hepatitis A. The Claimant did not consume any date products from Marks and Spencer prior to contracting hepatitis A; she only consumed dates purchased from Sainsbury’s.

Angela Bruno said:

“Jillian’s story is very similar to the other clients who we represent. All four had eaten Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Medjool Dates that were later subject to a product recall and all were hospitalised and diagnosed as hepatitis A.

“Our clients are all deeply concerned that a dangerous virus such as hepatitis A could have been introduced into the food chain, especially via a luxury product sold by one of the UK’s biggest retailers. We are now helping our clients to get answers to how this could have happened, and accountability for the injuries and losses they have suffered as a result.”

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Angela Bruno
Medical devices Food safety

Angela Bruno

Angela is a leading product safety and consumer rights lawyer. She also co-manages the food safety team at the London office.

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