The frozen berries recalled this month are understood to have been from the same shipment of fruit from China that caused the 2015 hepatitis A outbreak.
Fairfax Media can reveal that health authorities suspect the berries at the centre of the February 2015 and June 2017 recalls were produced at the same place in China around the same time.
"We understand the batch of frozen berries at the centre of this [current] recall were sourced from the same plant and area in China at around the same time as the berries responsible for the 2015 recall," a spokesman from the Department of Health and Human Services in Victoria said.
Its tests revealed the hepatitis A detected in the recalled Creative Gourmet mixed berries 300 gram packs has an identical sequence to the strain found in the Nanna's and Creative Gourmet packs recalled in 2015.
Currently four people, including a Queenslander, a Victorian and a South Australian, have potentially been infected with hepatitis A after consuming the affected berries, which were sold in independent supermarkets, including IGA, Foodworks and Supabarn, since October last year.
Food Standards Australia and New Zealand said the identical sequence indicated there was a common source of exposure, but emphasised "the [currently recalled] product was not in the market at the time of the 2015 recall".
"Around 48,000 units were distributed with most sold by March 2017," a spokesman said. "The first illness associated with these berries was identified in South Australia on 4 May 2017."
Entyce Food Ingredients acquired the Creative Gourmet brand and existing stock reserves of frozen fruit from Patties Foods in December 2015, following the debacle earlier that year.
Fairfax Media understands that Entyce supplied the contaminated berries to Patties that led to the 2015 recall and it later bought the damaged Creative Gourmet brand at a discounted price.
An Entyce spokesman confirmed the business had supplied frozen berries to Patties, but that it was one of several.
"Yes, Entyce acquired Creative Gourmet and existing stock, but not the mixed berries stock," said Leon Beswick. "The berries involved in the earlier recall and this recall are from different stock reserves, absolutely."
When asked to explain the identical sequence, he said, "We're not health care professionals, so we can't explain that".
Asked about the health department's position, he said, "We can't comment".
On June 2, Entyce announced a national recall of 48,000 units of Creative Gourmet mixed berries in 300 gram packs with the batch code PP150118, BBD 15.01.2021.
The product was sold at independent supermarkets, including IGA, Foodworks, Foodland, SPAR, Supabarn, across the country, since October last year.
Most of the stock is understood to have been sold and consumed.
"Given the small number of cases that have presented to date and the fact that most of the product has already been sold or destroyed it is unlikely that there will be a large increase in cases, although more cases can't be ruled out," a FSANZ spokesman said.
Entyce earlier said that it had tested the batch and cleared it for traces of Hepatitis A, pesticides and other microbiologicals such as E.coli and coliforms.
It also said it had reduced its reliance on fruits from China from 95 per cent to 5 per cent in regards to the Creative Gourmet brand.
Richard Furphy from Matilda's Frozen Fruit, which supplies Australian grown and processed frozen berries, said despite stronger country of origin labelling laws, there was a long way to go.
"With companies repacking imported berries in New Zealand and Australia, and keeping origin information as subtle as possible, brands are actively employing strategies to confuse consumers," he said.
"We are frustrated by how short memories are when it comes to food safety, especially when faced with cheap imports."
Symptoms of hepatitis A include abdominal pain, loss of appetite, yellow skin and eyes, dark urine and pale faeces, tiredness and a mild headache.