Chicken liver pâté linked to campylobacter

Health protection experts have warned that chicken liver pâté is a major source of camplybacter infection in the UK, accounting for 90% of outbreaks at catering venues in 2011.

According to figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA), there have been a total of 18 outbreaks of campylobacter infection in the UK this year, with more than 443 people taken ill. Fourteen of these outbreaks occured in catering venues and 13 of these were linked to chicken or duck liver pâté.

HPA investigations into these outbreaks revealed that the livers used to make the pâté had been undercooked and left pink in the middle. Officials have today (2 Dec) warned that chefs and home cooks should ensure that the product is cooked through to kill any campylobactor and follow good food hygiene practices when handling chicken livers to avoid cross-contamination.

Dr Christine Little, an expert in gastrointestinal infections at the HPA said: “The increase in outbreaks that are due to the consumption of chicken liver pâté has been steadily increasing over the last few years. Not only is this dish popular in food recipe magazines, it is being served in a variety of different catering venues.

“Illness occurs because the livers are only cooked until they are pink and inadequate cooking will not be sufficient to kill the bacteria.”

Bob Martin, head of foodborne disease strategy at the FSA, said: “Unfortunately, levels of campylobacter in most raw chicken are high, so it’s really important that chef’s cook livers thoroughly to kill any bacteria, even if recipes call for them to be seared and left pink in the middle.”

Legal experts have said that by failing to cook chicken liver pâté properly, chefs and caterers could be leaving themselves open to litigation. Simon Weilding, a specialist food poisoning and gastric illness litigation executive at Pannone said: “We currently are instructed by many clients who have suffered food poisoning symptoms while either dining at restaurants or attending functions such as wedding receptions.”

The warnings come as the HPA investigates an outbreak of food poisoning at the Lowry Hotel, which saw 80 people fall ill with camplyobacter. The outbreak, which occurred following a function on 8 October, has been to chicken pâté.

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