Stability and presence of viruses in food production chain and industrial food processing (VirSta)

The management of risks due to foodborne viruses is an essential part of checking performed by food business operators in order to decrease health hazards to consumers. This project studies and evaluates the process impact on the durability of hepatitis E virus (HEV) and African swine fever virus (ASFV) in food containing pork.

Products containing pork have caused human HEV infections and also pose an increased risk for those handling pigs. Although HEV infection is often mild or symptomless, it may lead to chronic hepatitis and to severe liver failure.

ASF may cause hemorrhagic fever in pigs, wild boars, minipigs and micropigs with up to 100 per cent mortality. It is not dangerous to humans, but the influence on the pig population may be enormous.

Foodborne viruses are destroyed with sufficient heating. However, the effects of for example smoking, curing, and fermenting on viruses are not exactly known. Viruses are highly resistant to environmental circumstances, and while packaging methods, for example, have an effect on bacterial growth, they have very little effect on the number of viruses.

The main goals are to

  • Study the presence and durability of HEV in the Finnish pork production chain, and its prevalence in wild boars and game animals.
  • The aim is also to improve the availability of virus analyses for the food industry
    investigate the destruction of HEV and ASFV infectivity in a) the generally used heat treatments and b) manufacturing processes without heat treatment in ready-to-eat food, especially pork products.
  • Evaluate the impact and costs of different processes on food safety, and the efficacy of risk management options on the risk due to HEV and ASFV.
  • Provide tailored information to different target groups.


2018 - 2021


Development Fund of Agriculture and Forestry (Makera), Finnish Food Authority, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Helsinki

Project group

  • Leena Maunula (Helsinki University, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Food Hygiene and Environmental Health) in charge of project
  • Tuija Gadd (Finnish Food Authority, Virology Research Unit)
  • Tuija Kantala (Finnish Food Authority, Virology Research Unit)
  • Laura London, (Finnish Food Authority, Virology Research Unit)
  • Pirkko Tuominen (Finnish Food Authority, Risk Assessment Unit)
  • Antti Mikkelä (Finnish Food Authority, Risk Assessment Unit)
  • Suvi Joutsen (Finnish Food Authority, Risk Assessment Unit)
  • Petra Pasonen (Finnish Food Authority, Risk Assessment Unit)
  • Eija Tammisalpa (Finnish Food Authority, The Laboratory and Research Division)

Project publications

Information about zoonotic hepatitis E virus

What should you know about zoonotic hepatitis E virus?

Narrated in Finnish, choose English subtitles in settings.

More information on the project

Leena Maunula,
Tuija Gadd,
Pirkko Tuominen,


Page last updated 12/23/2022