Consumption of raw or undercooked pork meat and liver is the most common cause of hepatitis E infection in the EU, according to new research from the European Food Safety Authority.

More than 21,000 cases of HEV infections have been reported in humans over the past 10 years, with an overall 10-fold increase in this period, it said this week.

Domestic pigs were the main carriers of the virus, EFSA found.

“Even if it is not as widespread as other foodborne diseases, HEV is a growing concern in the EU,” said EFSA working group chairman on hepatitis E Rosina Girones.

“In the past, people thought the main source of infection was drinking contaminated water while travelling outside the EU. But now we know the main source of transmission of the disease in Europe is food.”

Data also published this week by the European Centre of Disease Prevention and Control revealed HEV cases had risen each year from 514 in 2005 to 5,617 in 2015, with 28 deaths reported during that period.

Experts from EFSA’s Panel on Biological Hazards recommended that EU member states “increase awareness of public health risks associated with raw and undercooked pork meat and advise consumers to cook pork meat thoroughly”. They also recommended the development of suitable methods for detecting hepatitis E in food.