Hepatitis E: Barbecue warning over 'Brexit virus' found in 10 per cent of sausages

Bug reportedly comes from pig farms in France, Holland, Germany and Denmark

Katie Forster
Monday 22 May 2017 14:11 BST
Sausages should be cooked for 20 minutes and reach 70C internally to kill the virus
Sausages should be cooked for 20 minutes and reach 70C internally to kill the virus (Getty)

As Britain basks in its warmest weather since September, barbecue-goers have been warned to check their meat is properly cooked to avoid a mutant strain of hepatitis E found in one in ten sausages.

The bug has been dubbed the “Brexit virus” as it is believed to come from pig farms in France, Holland, Germany and Denmark.

More than 60,000 people in Britain are reportedly experiencing flu-like symptoms each year after being infected with a new strain of the virus, which led to serious illness for three times as many people last year than in 2010.

Data from Public Health England shows 368 people in 2010 contracted the liver disease, which can cause vomiting, jaundice and fever – jumping to 1244 in 2016.

According to the Food Standards Agency, 93 per cent of British pig herds are now infected with hepatitis E, with six per cent producing the virus in levels high enough to infect humans, reported The Sunday Times.

Roy Van Den Heuvel, a 61-year-old from Falmouth in Cornwall, told the newspaper he had been left partially paralysed by a serious case of the disease, which attacked nerves in his armpits and diaphragm.

“Doctors traced the strain to salami, probably from Holland. It is cured, not cooked, and the virus survives in the fatty bits,” he said.

Andrew Langford, chief executive of the British Liver Trust, told The Independent hepatitis E can “have a devastating effect, especially for people in poor health or with existing liver conditions”.

“We know that it does exist in meat products. It’s not the same sort of virus as hepatitis C or B, but it’s still something we should be really worried about, particularly regarding how we cook our meat, making sure pork products are being cooked properly to kill the virus.”

Gastroenterologist Dr Harry Dalton told a conference last week hepatitis E has become a major threat, according to The Sunday Times.

“I call it the Brexit virus… [it] seems to come from Europe,” said the Exeter University academic.

The liver disease is widespread in the developing world and can be passed from person to person in places with poor sanitation.

Experts have warned the virus is present in one in 10 sausages and processed pork meat products sold in England and Wales, recommending sausages be cooked for 20 minutes and reach 70C internally.

Friday could see highs of up to 27C as a wave of warm air moves across the country, with England and Wales predicted to enjoy temperatures in the 20s throughout the week.

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