E.coli O157 – New Outbreak
Earlier this month the Food Standards Agency (FSA) reported on a new E.coli O157 outbreak and has been reminding people of the importance of good hand washing and food hygiene practices.
You might recall our Information Update 2014/13 where we reported on the guidance available from the FSA. The guidance remains relevant to all food businesses that handle both raw and ready to eat foods. A copy of the full document can be downloaded from the FSA website here.
Public Health England (PHE) reported yesterday that it is continuing to investigate the outbreak which appears to be associated with eating mixed salad leaves.
PHE has confirmed that 151 cases of this strain of E. coli have been identified (figure correct as at 13 July 2016). This is 144 in England, 6 in Wales and 1 in Scotland, with the South West of England particularly affected. 62 of the cases are known to have received hospital care and sadly, 2 of the individuals with E.coli O157 infection have died.
Director of PHE's field epidemiology says "Working to establish the cause of the outbreak, PHE has identified that several of the affected individuals ate mixed salad leaves including rocket leaves prior to becoming unwell. Currently, the source of the outbreak is not confirmed and remains under investigation; we are not ruling out other food items as a potential source.
PHE is using various testing approaches which indicates that the strain involved is likely to be an imported strain, possibly from the Mediterranean area.
PHE is also working closely with the Food Standards Agency to trace, sample and test salad products grown in the UK and other parts of Europe. All food sample results to date have been negative for E.coli O157, but it’s important to be aware that where food has been contaminated with E.coli O157, it is not always possible to identify the bacteria on food testing.
As an additional precautionary measure, we have advised a small number of wholesalers to cease adding some imported rocket leaves to their mixed salad products pending further investigations".
PHE previously stressed the importance of good hand and food hygiene practices at all times. We urge people to remove any loose soil before storing vegetables and thoroughly wash all vegetables (including salads) that will be eaten raw unless they have been pre-prepared and are specifically labelled ‘ready to eat’. These measures may reduce the risk of infection from any E.coli contaminated vegetables, fruit and salad but will not eliminate any risk of infection completely. PHE is working alongside the Food Standards Agency and will provide any further necessary public health advice as investigations continue.
It’s also vital to wash hands thoroughly using soap and water after using the toilet, before and after handling food and after contact with any animals and pets, including farm animals. Small children should also be supervised when washing their hands.
A useful notice displaying guidance on effective hand washing is available to download free of charge from our website here. Simply print it off, laminate it and display it at your hand wash sink stations.
As always, if you have any queries on the above or any other food hygiene or related matter please feel free to contact us.
Source - Food Standards Agency / Public Health England.