Update 23/8: Following reports surrounding the identity of "Supermarket X," which may have unintentionally infected thousands with a strain of hepatitis E, Public Health England issued the following statement on Wednesday:
"Tesco was not named in our study because we attach no fault to the company," Dr Jenny Harries, a spokesperson for PHE, said.
"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."
Original story 21/8: A leading UK supermarket may have infected thousands of people with a form of hepatitis that causes liver cirrhosis and neurological damage, researchers from Public Health England have warned.
The Times reports that scientists at the government agency traced the shopping habits of 60 people infected with Hepatitis E (HEV), which is transmitted by sausages and pork products from Europe - mainly Holland and Germany. UK pigs do not have the strain.
The researchers found that those with the virus had all eaten own-brand sausages from the unnamed retailer, known as 'Supermarket X'.
'The implicated products are pork sausages, which require cooking prior to consumption, and ready-to-eat pre-packed sliced ham,' said the paper, according to The Times.
'Only Supermarket X, especially own brand, was significantly associated with HEV G3-2,' the report added.
The new study was carried out between 2014 and 2016 and estimates that imported pork infects 150,000-200,000 Brits a year with the virus. In response to the findings, NHS Blood and Transplant has reportedly started testing all blood donations for HEV and will do the same for donated organs and tissues.
According to the study authors, the risk posed by imported pork is problem for all meat producers and retailers, as so many animals have become infected.
Earlier this year, the Food Standards Agency updated its advice on cooking and consuming pork products. 'We always advise that whole cuts of pork, pork products and offal should be thoroughly cooked until steaming hot throughout, the meat is no longer pink and juices run clear,' it states.
'This will reduce the risk of illness from harmful foodborne bacteria and viruses like hepatitis E. The risk from acquiring hepatitis E virus (HEV) from eating thoroughly cooked pork or pork products is low.'
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