Chicken liver paté food poisoning warning by Wealden District Council

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WEALDEN DISTRICT Council has stepped up checks on local restaurants to ensure chicken livers are being properly cooked before being made into paté.

This follows a recent warning by the Food Standards Agency reminding people to cook chicken livers thoroughly when making paté because of the risk of Campylobacter infection.

Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK.

New figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) reveal that 90% of Campylobacter outbreaks at catering venues were linked to undercooked chicken liver paté.

Cllr Bob Standley, district council leader, said: “A lot of people will be eating out at restaurants over the Christmas and New Year period and paté is a very popular starter.

“It is essential that everyone knows that the chicken livers must be thoroughly cooked to help prevent any illness.

“If you are planning to make your own paté for friends and family at home, it’s important that you follow this advice as well.”

HPA investigations into recent Campylobacter 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. The HPA identified that in many traditional recipes the chicken livers aren’t thoroughly cooked.

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.

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.”

Food Safety Officers at Wealden District Council have been advising all catering businesses to follow proper cooking procedures when making paté and keep to good hygiene practices at all times.

Business hygiene practices are reflected in the score they receive under the National Food Hygiene Rating Scheme which helps the public decide where they should go to eat safely. These should be on display at the premises. In Wealden, more than 500 food businesses have achieved the top score of five, meaning they are very good. Businesses scoring four are good, and three equates to a generally satisfactory compliance with the law.

Any rating below three means improvements in hygiene standards are needed. Those scoring 0 are the poorest performers and may well be subject to enforcement action to improve standards.

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% of patients recover within one week. Severe long-term after-effects following infections are rare but do occur.

The Food Standards 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.