Cases of Hepatitis E infecting the EU could mostly be avoided if both chefs and backyard cooks practiced better hygiene and cooked pork products completely, according to a new report from European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
It says Birgit Nørrung, Head of Department at the Department of Veterinary and Animal Science at the University of Copenhagen.
“It does not mean that you can not eat a rare beef steak,” Birgit Nørrung, Head of Department at the Department of Veterinary and Animal Science at the University of Copenhagen told DR Nyheder. “But pork should be cooked completely. Special care should be taken when handling the liver, which contains a lot of blood. That could mean high virus concentrations.”
Hepatitis cases increasing
Nørrung is a member of the EFSA expert panel, who has just made recommendations for avoiding further contagion from the disease among EU countries.
Cases of hepatitis E are rapidly increasing in Europe and are mainly transmitted to humans via pork, according to experts from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
“Hepatitis E is widely found in pigs, so they are considered a major source of the infection in humans,” said Nørrung.
Unlike salmonella and campylobacter, which are found on the surface of meat, hepatitis is contained within the meat. Therefore, pork should always be well done.
“Hepatitis E is deeper in the flesh because it is in the bloodstream of the animals,” said Nørrung.
The researcher advised three steps to avoid the infection.
1. Boil raw sausages before they end up on the grill. Raw sausage should not be placed directly on the grill.
“There may be viruses and bacteria in all products made with minced meat,” said Nørrung. “If you start with raw sausage, I would recommend cooking them first before putting them on the grill. Otherwise, they could burn before they are properly cooked.”
2. Follow the instructions if you make leverpostej. The core temperature must be above the minimum of 75 degrees.
3. Avoid mixing meat and blood with any other foods and always handle meat with care.
“Cook raw meat in its own pan,” said Nørrung. “Make sure to thoroughly wash any cutting board that has been in contact with the meat.”