Hepatitis E virus in pork meat products and exposure assessment in Belgium

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Abstract

Zoonotic hepatitis E virus (HEV) genotype 3 infections are the predominant cause of acute viral hepatitis in Europe, mostly associated with the consumption of HEV contaminated pork meat. In this study we looked at the HEV RNA positivity rate of pork meat products readily available from Belgian supermarkets and evaluated the overall HEV consumer exposure in a Belgian context. Two basic assessments were performed in a ‘worst-case’ scenario setting: one solely focusing on the contamination level of the product itself (ingredients and processing parameters) and another estimating the overall consumer exposure, taking into account consumption habits in Belgium. Non-thermal-processed ready-to-eat (i.e. ready for consumption without additional cooking step by consumer) pork meat products (e.g. raw dried sausages), had a high estimated HEV contamination level, while thermal-processed ready-to-eat pork meat products (e.g. pork liver pâté) had the highest overall consumer exposure estimates. Following these assessments, pork liver pâtés, raw dried hams and raw dried sausages (n = 54) were purchased from Belgian supermarkets (n = 3) and analyzed for HEV RNA by RT-PCR. In total, 31 % (n = 17) products tested positive. HEV RNA was found in 65 % of the pork liver pâtés, 15 % of raw dried hams and 0 % of raw dried sausages. Phylogenetic analysis of four isolates (all gt3c) from pork liver pâté samples showed similarities with human clinical cases from Germany and Belgium.

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APA

Locus, T., Lambrecht, E., Peeters, M., Suin, V., Verhaegen, B., Van Hoorde, K., … Van Gucht, S. (2023). Hepatitis E virus in pork meat products and exposure assessment in Belgium. International Journal of Food Microbiology, 397. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2023.110198

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