CategoryPre-Harvest Pork Safety
Date Full Report Received08/01/2007
Date Abstract Report Received09/15/2008
InvestigationInstitution: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Primary Investigator: Ph.D., Xiang-Jin Meng M.D.
Funded ByNational Pork Board
Human hepatitis E, caused by the hepatitis E virus (HEV), is a major public health concern in developing countries, but sporadic cases of hepatitis E have also been reported in industrialized
countries including the United States. The majority of the pigs in the United States are infected by HEV. To evaluate the potential risk of HEV infection via the consumption of pork products, we determined the presence and prevalence rate of HEV in commercial pig livers sold in local grocery stores. We found that approximately 11% of the commercial pig livers sold in local grocery stores in the United States are contaminated by HEV. Most importantly, we demonstrated that the contaminating viruses in pig livers remain infectious, thus raising a potential concern for pork safety. Subsequently we evaluated if the HEV-contaminated pig livers could be inactivated by traditional cooking methods. We found that the contaminated livers can be effectively inactivated if cooked properly [stir-fried at 375°F for 5 minutes or boiled in water for 5 minutes], although incubation at 56°C for 1 hour cannot inactivate the virus. The data from this study indicated that commercial pig livers from grocery stores are contaminated by infectious HEV. To reduce the risk of food-borne HEV infection, commercial pig livers must be thoroughly cooked. The results from this study should be useful for pork producers and public health personnel to devise strategies to minimize the risk of HEV infection through pork products. Contact information: E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. X.J. Meng, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Virology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA.