The UK Food Standards Agency Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) has published an extensive review of viruses in the food chain. The report focuses on the most important viruses involved in foodborne infections – norovirus, hepatitis A and hepatitis E.
The ACMSF set up an Ad-Hoc group in 2010 to revisit the issue of foodborne viruses in response to new developments, such as better methods of detection for viruses in food and up-to-date estimates of the burden of illness that they cause. The group’s report updates an earlier working group report on foodborne viruses published in 1998.
The updated report contains recommendations for additional research in some areas, notably how viral contamination gives rise to infection, methods to assess norovirus and hepatitis E infectivity in food samples, food contamination through sewage and methods for decontaminating fresh produce. Other recommendations include clearer advice for consumers on cooking shellfish and pork products and on washing leafy green vegetables and soft fruit.
The report also highlights the emerging risk of hepatitis E in pigs and the increasing rates of infection, especially in older males in the UK. More studies to investigate heat inactivation of the hepatitis E virus in pork products and the effects of fermentation and curing on the virus are recommended by the authors.
The report can be downloaded in full as a PDF file from the Agency website here.