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The FSAI warns that pork meat should be cooked thoroughly to prevent hepatitis E virus infection

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) is aware of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) report which identifies the consumption of raw or undercooked pork meat and liver as the most common cause of hepatitis E virus in the EU. In line with EFSA’s opinion, the FSAI advises that pork meat should be cooked thoroughly to prevent hepatitis E virus infection.

 In developed countries hepatitis E was traditionally considered to be an infection associated with travel to areas with poor sanitation. It is increasingly, however, being recognised as a disease that can be acquired within developed countries. Hepatitis E virus infections have been linked to the consumption of raw or undercooked pork or game meat. Transmission through occupational exposure to animals, particularly pigs, has also been reported.

Hepatitis E virus usually causes a self-limiting illness however, it can result in liver failure in patients with pre-existing liver disease. It may also lead to chronic hepatitis in immunosuppressed patients.

It became a notifiable disease in Ireland at the end of 2015.  From preliminary data, there were 90 cases reported to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) in 2016.  The FSAI is not aware of any foodborne outbreaks but given the conclusions of the EFSA report, it is possible that some of the 90 Irish reported cases could have been as a result of consumption of undercooked pork meat or liver.

The message for food businesses and consumers is that they should always cook pork meat, pork liver and pork products, e.g. sausages, thoroughly.

 For further information see:
FSAI FAQs – https://www.fsai.ie/faq/hepatitis_E.html
EFSA report - http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/170711
HPSC - http://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/hepatitis/hepatitise/factsheet/