Food Standards Agency
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Food poisoning risk from chicken liver pate

The Food Standards Agency is reminding people to cook chicken livers thoroughly if making pate, to reduce the risk of food poisoning. New figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) reveal that 90% of campylobacter outbreaks at catering venues were linked to undercooked chicken liver pate. Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK.

HPA investigations into these outbreaks revealed that livers used to make the paté weren’t thoroughly cooked, allowing the liver to remain pink in the centre. Chefs and other caterers should ensure that campylobacter is killed through proper cooking. They should also follow good food hygiene practices when handling and cooking poultry livers, to avoid contaminating other foods with campylobacter.

Bob Martin, head of foodborne disease strategy at the Food Standards Agency, said: ‘Unfortunately, levels of campylobacter in raw chicken are high, so it’s really important that chefs thoroughly cook chicken livers fully to kill any bacteria, until there is no pinkness left in the centre, even if recipes call for them to be seared and left pink in the middle. It’s the only way of ensuring the paté will be safe to serve to their customers.’

The Agency is also working closely with the UK poultry industry and retailers to develop targeted actions along the food chain to reduce levels of campylobacter in UK-produced poultry.

Science behind the story

Poultry livers carry a high risk of campylobacter. The bacteria can be present throughout the liver, not just on the surface as is the case for poultry meat, and may remain a source of infection if they are not cooked sufficiently.

It’s estimated that there were more than 370,000 cases of campylobacter infection 2009 in England. Symptoms include diarrhoea, stomach pains and cramps, fever, and generally feeling unwell, though vomiting is uncommon. Illness suffered by most cases start to clear up after two to three days of diarrhoea and 80 to 90% recover within one week. Severe long-term after-effects following infections are rare but do occur.

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