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Undercooked Liver Linked to Campy Poisoning

by 5m Editor
3 December 2010, at 8:18a.m.

UK - A new report links the consumption of undercooked chicken liver with campylobacter food poisoning.

The Health Protection Agency has today published a report of outbreaks of campylobacter food poisoning linked to chicken liver products. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is therefore reminding caterers to make sure chicken liver is cooked thoroughly.

Data provided by the Health Protection Agency shows that 11 of the 15 outbreaks of campylobacter recorded this year at catering premises (such as restaurants and hotels) were linked to consuming poultry liver parfait or pâté. This is a substantial increase compared with previous years.

The majority of the outbreaks associated with pâté or parfait, products between 2005 and 2010, have been at catering establishments and involved products prepared on-site as opposed to purchased ready-made.

FSA advice on cooking chicken liver

Poultry liver carries a high risk of campylobacter contamination if not cooked enough as the bacteria can be present throughout the liver. The Food Standards Agency is therefore reminding caterers to make sure chicken livers are handled hygienically and cooked thoroughly when used in products such as pâté or parfait.

Some recipes indicate that searing chicken liver is enough to kill any bacteria. However, food safety experts at the Agency advise that chicken liver must be cooked all the way through and not just seared. Campylobacter can be present throughout the liver, not just on the surface.

The Agency advises that liver, kidneys, and other types of offal should be handled hygienically to avoid cross-contamination and cooked thoroughly until they are steaming hot all the way through. The centre should reach a temperature of 70°C for two minutes or the equivalent time and temperature. The equivalent heat treatments are:

  • 65°C for 10 minutes
  • 70°C for 2 minutes
  • 75°C for 30 seconds
  • 80°C for 6 seconds

The FSA has identified the reduction of human foodborne disease and, in particular, tackling campylobacter infections acquired from chicken, as a key priority for the next five years. The most recent figures suggest that 65 per cent of shop-bought chicken is contaminated with campylobacter and the bug is responsible for more than 300,000 cases of food poisoning and 15,000 admissions to hospital a year in England and Wales.