The Food Standards Agency is reminding caterers to make sure chicken livers are handled hygienically and cooked thoroughly when used in products such as pâté or parfait.
This follows a number of outbreaks of campylobacter food poisoning linked with chicken liver products where the livers may have been undercooked.
Some recipes indicate that searing chicken liver is enough to kill any bacteria that may be present. However, food safety experts at the Agency advise that chicken liver should not be treated like a piece of steak and must be cooked all the way through. Campylobacter can be present throughout the liver, not just on the surface.
The most recent figures suggest that 65% of shop-bought chicken is contaminated with campylobacter. The bug is responsible for more than 300,000 cases of food poisoning and 15,000 hospitalisations a year in England and Wales. The FSA has identified the reduction of human foodborne disease, and in particular tackling campylobacter infections acquired from chicken, as a key priority for the next five years.
Data provided by the Health Protection Agency shows that during 2009 the number of outbreaks of campylobacter associated with chicken liver products increased substantially: nine of the 15 outbreaks reported between 2005 and 2009 occurred during 2009. An additional five outbreaks associated with consumption of chicken liver pâté or parfait were reported in the first half of 2010.
The majority of the outbreaks between 2005 and 2010 associated with pâté or parfait products have been at catering establishments, like restaurants and hotels, and have involved products that have been prepared on site as opposed to purchased ready-made.
The Agency advises that liver, kidneys, and other types of offal should be handled hygienically to avoid cross-contamination and cooked thoroughly until they are steaming hot all the way through, reaching a core temperature of 70°C for two minutes or equivalent. The equivalent heat treatments are: 65°C for 10 minutes; 70°C for 2 minutes; 75°C for 30 seconds; 80°C for 6 seconds.