You may be aware of some recent articles in the newspapers regarding the presence of hepatitis E in pork and the risk of infection due to consumption of under-cooked pork products. There is data showing that there has been a 40% increase in the number of hepatitis E cases in 2012.
What are the dangers of Hepatitis E in pork?
Hepatitis E is a virus that can infect humans and cause inflammation of the liver (hepatitis). Hepatitis E infection usually produces only mild disease, but in rare cases, it can prove fatal, particularly in pregnant women. Symptoms of hepatitis E include yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), darkening of the urine and pale stools, which may or may not be accompanied by tiredness, fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and loss of appetite.
The disease usually clears within one to four weeks and a blood test is required to confirm the diagnosis. Historically the cases were considered to have been contracted abroad. However, it is likely that now, some of the cases are associated with the virus being present in processed pork products. Research has shown that up to 85% of pigs are carrying the virus and 10% of sausages have the virus present.
Until the Food Standards Agency issues further guidance, you should ensure that all pork products are cooked to a core temperature of 70oC for 2 minutes. It is expected that the EHOs will be focusing on this area in their routine inspections and you should be prepared to demonstrate that you have adequate controls in place and that you are not serving under-cooked pork.
Food Alert can help you prepare for an EHO inspection : see our more.