Foods associated with Hepatitis E
Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is primarily associated with pig liver products but new data suggests that almost all food categories can pose a risk of infection including game meat, pork, ready to eat vegetables and bivalve molluscs.
Hepatitis E produces inflammation of the liver which occasionally develops into acute, severe liver disease (fatal in about 2% of cases). The incubation period of HEV following exposure is approximately 3-8 weeks. There are no widely available cures for human HEV infection other than the body’s immune response.
The numbers of confirmed hepatitis E cases and infections have increased significantly since 2010. Infection is usually spread by direct contact with infected animals or by consumption of contaminated food or water.
HEV is widespread in the domestic pig population, and the virus has previously been detected in pork products. A study found that 92% of pigs in the UK were seropositive at the time of slaughter.
When it comes to heat treatment of products, current data suggests HEV could survive heating to 71oC for at least 5 minutes but not 20 minutes in contaminated liver. However, further studies need to be carried out to thoroughly define the heat resistance profile.
Food Standards Agency advice from May 2017 states that “whole cuts of pork, pork products and offal should be thoroughly cooked until steaming hot throughout, the meat is no longer pink and juices run clear.”