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  1. ITV Report

Supermarket's pork products 'infects thousands' with potentially deadly virus

Sausages are among the pork products thought to have infected thousands of shoppers with Hepatitis E Credit: PA

Pork products sold at a leading supermarket may have infected thousands with a virus that can potentially be fatal.

Cases of the hepatitis E virus have been increasing since 2010, according to Public Health England (PHE) which has looked into the cause of the rise.

Studying the shopping habits of those infected, researchers found ham and sausages from a specific supermarket was a recurring feature.

Hepatitis E, caused by the hepatitis E virus, generally results in a mild and short-term infection unless the person has a pre-existing liver disease or is pregnant.

Symptoms of the virus can include feeling flu-like, yellowing of the skin and eyes, tiredness, fever, vomiting and loss of appetite. In rare cases it can cause liver failure and prove fatal.

PHE and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said they will not name the store, and the findings do "not infer blame on the supermarket".

In the wake of the increasing infection figures, the PHE study looked at 60 individuals with no history of travel outside the UK.

The risk from acquiring hepatitis E virus (HEV) from eating thoroughly cooked pork or pork products is low.

As a precaution, the FSA advises consumers that all 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.

– FSA Spokesperson

The Sunday Times reports the research was carried out between 2014 and 2016, and that it is estimated 150,000 to 200,000 Britons are infected with the virus by imported pork every year.

According to the newspaper, PHE's report states: "The implicated products are pork sausages, which require cooking prior to consumption, and ready-to-eat pre-packed ham."

Researchers found the "own brand" sausages were significantly associated with infection.

In a report published last month the government agency said the virus strain has not been detected in British pigs, and infections could be the result of eating products made outside the UK.

An FSA spokeswoman said they are aware the report's findings and are reviewing all aspects of hepatitis E infection with other government departments and industry.