The big chain has yet to be identified. The unknown supermarket’s own-brand sausages and ham were found to be the common link between those infected. [Update: The supermarket that unintentionally infected people with a strain of hepatitis has now been identified as Tesco.]

A major UK supermarket may have unintentionally infected thousands of people with a pig virus which causes liver and neurological problems, Public Health England has found.

The big chain, which has yet to be officially identified and is referred to as “Supermarket X”, has been implicated in the transmission of Hepatitis E, or HEV by new research.

HEV is transmitted by sausages and pork products from Europe, mainly Holland and Germany, the Sunday Times reported. Most infected people present few symptoms but others develop serious illness. UK-bred pork is not affected.

The government says of HEV on its website: “Pregnant women and older people, those with weakened immune systems, and people with chronic liver disease can experience more severe infections. These patients can require closer observation in case the infection affects their liver function.”

Official estimates place the numbers of Brits infected by HEV from pork products each year at 150,000-200,000.

Public Health England commissioned research into the issue in 2014 and it was completed two years later – but the findings were held from publication amid fears over “sensitivity”. It was finally published this summer.

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The supermarket that unintentionally infected people with a strain of hepatitis has now been identified as Tesco.

Public Health England looked at the shopping habits of 60 people infected with Hepatitis E – or HEV – and found that it was linked to them having eaten sausages and ham from one store, named only as ‘Supermarket X’.

They have since been under increasing pressure to name Supermarket X, but they refused – claiming that the ‘association with the supermarket does not infer any blame’.

However, PHE has now told HuffPo that the supermarket was Tesco.

Dr Jenny Harries from PHE told the site: ‘Tesco was not named in our study because we attach no fault to the company. This study was a statistical analysis that found an association between clinical hepatitis E and sausage and ham products rather than direct causation.’