supermarket pork hepatitis E

Hundreds of people may have been infected by the Hepatitis (HEV) virus after buying pork from Tesco’s, it has been reported.

Researchers at Public Health England (PHE) assessed the shopping habits of 60 people infected with hepatitis E, or HEV, and found that the consumption of ham and sausages from the supermarket was a recurring feature.

PHE has been under pressure to reveal the identity of ‘Supermarket X’ for days, initially saying only that the “association with the supermarket does not infer any blame”.

An interview published by HuffPost, which broke the story, revealed: “Dr Jenny Harries, from PHE, said: “The risk to public health in England from hepatitis E infection is low, it is usually a mild, self-limiting illness which most people will clear without any symptoms.

“Tesco was not named in our study because we attach no fault to the company.

“This study was a statistical analysis that found an association between clinical hepatitis E and sausage and ham products rather than direct causation.

“Most of the cases involved the G3-2 hepatitis E strain, which has not been found in UK pigs, and the appearance of this strain is likely to reflect complex animal health practices within Europe, rather than any processes used by the retailer. PHE understands all sausages sold under the Tesco brand are exclusively sourced within the UK.

“The Food Standards Agency is working with government, industry bodies and scientists across Europe to better understand and address the risk of foodborne hepatitis E infection.”

Hepatitis E symptoms include, jaundice, darkening of the urine, stomach pain, nausea, loss of appetite, pain and fever.

Most infected people present few symptoms but others develop serious illness.

Since 2010, PHE said there has been a rise “in the number of non-travel cases” of the hepatitis E virus – with figures showing infections have risen from from 368 in 2010 to 1243 in 2016.

Official figures estimate that the numbers of Brits infected by HEV from pork products each are 150,000 to 200,000.

The 60 individuals whose shopping habits were analysed had no history of travel outside the UK.

The PHE study showed: ““Epidemiological data relating to usual shopping habits and consumption of ham and sausages were analysed together with typing data to identify any associations with HEV phylotype.

“Study participants who purchased ham and/or sausage from a major supermarket were more likely to have HEV G3-2 infection. This does not infer blame on the supermarket but the epidemiology of HEV is dynamic and reflects complex animal husbandry practices which need to be explored further.”

A statement by Tesco said that their pork products are sourced from the UK and stated that they work with farmers, suppliers, PHE, FSA and the industry to reduce the risk.

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