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Warning over food poisoning risk

Health experts are warning of the high risk of food poisoning from undercooked chicken or duck liver pate.

New figures show that more than 90% of outbreaks of Campylobacter - the most common form of bacterial food poisoning - at catering venues in 2011 were linked to people eating such pate.

Symptoms of the illness include diarrhoea, stomach pains, cramps, fever, and generally feeling unwell. Vomiting is uncommon and around 80% or 90% of people recover in a week. But some people suffer longer-term effects.

According to the Health Protection Agency (HPA), there have been 18 outbreaks of Campylobacter infection in England so far this year. Overall, 443 people became unwell and one person was taken to hospital.

HPA investigations found that livers used to make parfait or pate were undercooked, meaning the liver stayed pink in the centre.

Campylobacter can be found spread throughout the liver unlike with other bits of meat, where it can stay on the surface. This means liver must be cooked through to ensure the bug is killed.

A total of 14 outbreaks occurred in catering venues, 13 of which were linked to chicken or duck liver pate. Chicken was the worst culprit, accounting for 11 of the 13 cases.

The outbreaks occurred across the country, with seven linked to wedding receptions held at hotels, banqueting venues and pubs. The other six were linked to catering in hotels, clubs and restaurants.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is now reminding caterers to cook poultry livers thoroughly and avoid contamination with other foods.

Bob Martin, head of foodborne disease strategy at the FSA, said: "The only way of ensuring the pate or parfait will be safe to serve to your guests or customers is by cooking the livers the whole way through. Caterers should also follow good general hygiene practices when cooking and handling poultry livers, to avoid cross contamination with Campylobacter."

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