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Food Safety Focus (105th Issue, April 2015) – Food Incident Highlight

Hepatitis A and Food

In the first three months of 2015, the total number of hepatitis A cases reported locally increased to almost the same as the annual number recorded previously. Hepatitis A is caused by hepatitis A virus (HAV) leading to inflammation of the liver cells. In some places, outbreaks have been associated with the consumption of contaminated raw/ inadequately cooked shellfish (e.g. oysters) or fresh produce (e.g. berry fruits).

HAV can be transmitted via contaminated food, water or environmental objects, and through direct or indirect person-to-person contact. Furthermore, cross contamination and poor personal hygiene of food handlers may contribute to the spread of HAV.

Foodborne hepatitis A infection could be prevented effectively by practising the " Five Keys to Food Safety ". The public and the trade are advised to maintain proper hygiene personally and during food preparation to prevent cross contamination, and to obtain food ingredients from reliable sources. Wash fruits with potable water before consumption to reduce the risk of hepatitis A infection. Thorough cooking, wherever applicable, remains the final critical step to destroy HAV.