Over 90% of cases of a common form of food poisoning seen this year were due to people eating undercooked chicken liver pate, often at weddings, infection experts have said.The Health Protection Agency (HPA) analysed 18 outbreaks of Campylobacter in 2011 across England.
In all, 443 people became unwell and one had to be hospitalised.The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has reminded caterers to cook poultry livers to prevent infection.
Campylobacter is the most common cause of bacterial food poisoning in Britain – there were estimated to have been more than 600,000 cases in 2010 in England and Wales.
Symptoms include diarrhoea, stomach pains and cramps, fever, and generally feeling unwell. Most people are only ill for a few days.In 2008 there were just three outbreaks linked to undercooked chicken liver pate, but that rose to nine in 2009 and 14 in 2010.
Poultry livers carry a particularly high risk of Campylobacter as the bacteria can be present throughout the liver, not just the surface as is the case for other poultry meat, and may remain a source of infection if they are not cooked sufficiently.
Of the 18 outbreaks, 14 occurred in catering venues, and 13 of these were linked to chicken or duck liver pate. Seven were linked to wedding receptions at hotels, banqueting venues or public houses and six were associated with catering at other functions such as hotels, clubs and restaurants.
The HPA found that livers used to make the parfait or pate were undercooked allowing the liver to remain pink in the centre. It said caterers can reduce the risk of their people becoming infected by ensuring that Campylobacter is killed through proper cooking and by avoiding cross-contamination to other foods.