Raw pork is main cause of hepatitis E, says EFSA

Raw or undercooked pork meat is the most common cause of hepatitis E (HEV) in the EU, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

A new report by EFSA has stated that consumption of raw or undercooked pork meat and liver is the most common cause of the illness, of which there have been 21,000 cases in the past 10 years.

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

According to data published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the number of confirmed HEV cases has been increasing each year, from 514 in 2005 to 5,617 cases in 2015, representing a tenfold rise. Between 2011 and 2015, cases increased threefold. In total, 28 deaths associated with HEV infection were reported from five countries between 2005 and 2015.

According to the NHS, hepatitis is “caught by consuming food and drink contaminated with the poo of an infected person”. It cites this method as the most common cause of short-term (acute) hepatitis in the UK.

Experts from EFSA’s Panel on Biological Hazards have recommended that 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.

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