One of the UK’s largest supermarkets may have infected consumers with hepatitis E through its sausages and cooked ham products.
Researchers at Public Health England found that consumption of ham and sausages from ‘Supermarket X’ was a common factor in patients infected with hepatitis E, according to a report in the Sunday Times.
The PHE study, published last month, looked at the shopping habits of 60 patients infected with the virus, and linked their shopping habits to pork products.
However, PHE has not revealed the name of the supermarket involved, which has caused a consumer backlash on social media with some arguing the public has a right to know which retailer is implicated.
The Food Standards Agency today described hepatitis E as an “emerging health issue”, but stressed the risk of acquiring the virus from food remained low.
“We are aware of evidence gaps on the heat stability of the virus and the recent research call is seeking to provide the tools which will allow us to investigate this further,” said an FSA spokesman.
“In the meantime, FSA advice remains that the best way of minimising risk of hepatitis E infection is to cook all whole cuts of pork, pork products and offal thoroughly, until steaming hot throughout, the meat is no longer pink and any juices run clear.”
It follows reports earlier this year that the most common cause of hepatitis E infection in the EU is consumption of raw or undercooked pork meat and liver.
Research published by the European Food Safety Authority in July suggested that more than 21,000 cases of HEV infections have been reported in humans over the past 10 years, which is a 10-fold increase in this period. Domestic pigs were the main carriers of the virus, according to the EFSA.
Scientists also warned last year there was an “urgent” need to develop a laboratory test to establish whether HEV found in pork was infectious and posed a risk to human health. The warning came after an FSA report showed a “significant” rise in non-travel related cases of hepatitis E.