Across a total of 18 outbreaks of Campylobacter infection in England in 2011, 443 people became unwell and one person was hospitalized. Fourteen outbreaks occurred in catering venues and 13 of these were linked to chicken or duck liver pate. The outbreaks occurred across England and seven were linked to wedding receptions at hotels, banqueting venues or public houses and six were associated with catering at other functions in hotels, clubs and restaurants.
HPA investigations into these outbreaks revealed that livers used to make the pate were undercooked allowing the liver to remain pink in the center.
The Food Standards Agency issued updated advice to caterers on the safe handling and cooking of livers twice in 2010, but Campylobacter outbreaks associated with the consumption of chicken liver pate have continued to occur. “Unfortunately, levels of Campylobacter in most raw chicken are high so it’s really important that chefs cook livers thoroughly to kill any bacteria, even if recipes call for them to be seared and left pink in the middle,” said Bob Martin, head of food borne disease strategy at the FSA.
Campylobacter is the most common cause of bacterial food poisoning in Britain and there were estimated to have been more than 600,000 cases in 2010 in England and Wales alone.