An extensive review of viruses in the food chain has been published by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) highlighting the need for “more research in certain areas” and for clear advice to be given to consumers on cooking shellfish and pork products, alongside information on washing leafy green vegetables and soft fruit.
Produced by the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF), which provides expert advice to the FSA, the report covers what is “considered as the most important viruses associated with foodborne infections – norovirus, hepatitis A, and hepatitis E”.
The 136-page report explores food chain management requirements for shellfish, berry fruits and leafy green vegetables, and pigs and pork products.
For pork, in particular, the following five actions are recommended:
- Further work is undertaken on heat inactivation of hepatitis E virus (HEV) in naturally contaminated raw, rare and ready-to-eat pork products and these studies should relate to industry practice. Infectivity should be measured’.
- Further work is undertaken on the effect of curing and/or fermentation of pork products (e.g. salamis and dry cured meats) on HEV infectivity.
- Work towards development of an ISO standard method for detection of HEV in foodstuffs (including pork products) should be encouraged.
- A structured survey of HEV contamination in pork products across the retail sector is conducted.
- Comparative HEV phylogenies in human and pig populations in those countries supplying meat to the UK should be examined in order to more fully define the sources and routes of the infections which have been reported in the UK.
Concerning such actions, however, FSA commented: “The government will respond in due course when the recommendations have been considered in detail.”