NPA’s Georgina reassures public over Hepatitis E

NPA senior policy advisor Georgina Crayford has urged the public to buy Red Tractor assured pork if they are concerned about Hepatitis E.

Georgina was interviewed on the BBC Farming Today programme to give the pig industry’s perspective on the latest wave of publicity surrounding the link between Hepatitis E infection in the British public and consumption of imported pork. The interview, from around 10 minutes, can be heard here

This followed an article in the Sunday Times suggesting that pork sold by a single, unnamed, supermarket was a common factor in many cases of infection. 

Georgina referred to a study recently published by European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which found that consumption of raw or undercooked pork products is a risk factor for contracting the virus.

But she said: “In general, if people follow the advice of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to cook pork until it is not pink in the middle, the risk of infection is low.”

She added that there were many different types and sub-types of Hepatitis E and stressed that the strain causing the infection in pork in the UK is not the same strain that has been found in British pigs.

“Hepatitis E is present in pigs worldwide. In the UK, we understand pigs become infected earlier in life, so by the time they reach slaughter they are not actively infective. But there are some thoughts that in Europe pig production systems might be slightly different, so pigs are still actively infected at the time of slaughter.”

Asked whether the latest reports about Hepatitis E, which followed hot on the heels of the imported Dutch eggs scandal, would cause concern among the public, Georgina added:

“The key message here is that for most people, Hepatitis E is a mild infection that clears up by itself and people might not even be aware they are carrying the disease. By properly cooking their pork products, the risk of infection is low but for those people who are pre-disposed or have a suppressed immune system, they need to think about what they are eating and how they cook it.

“If people are concerned they can look for the Red Tractor on packs, so they know where the pork has come from and that it’s fully traceable. Sausages produced under the Red Tractor logo are not allowed to contain liver or offal. Liver is the risk organ in pigs and the fact that British sausages don’t contain it may give people some confidence.”

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About The Author

Editor of Pig World and contributor to LBM’s other farming publications. Also National Pig Association webmaster. Formerly political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years. Enjoy a bit of media punditry. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm. Work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Under-9 football coach and big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.