FSA to review strategies to prevent E.coli outbreaks

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags E. coli Escherichia coli

UK food safety watchdog, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is to review strategies designed to reduce the shedding of E. coli 0157 by ruminant livestock.

In partnership with the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the food safety watch dog plans to commission an evidence review of the efficacy of control measures designed to prevent E. coli 0157.

The review will also to study barriers to the implementation of effective control strategies by farmers, including legal, social and economic barriers.

Vaccine control

Included in the research requirements is a request to “consider the feasibility of vaccine control on open farms​.”

According to a FSA statement: “E. coli O157 is a relatively rare but significant gastrointestinal pathogen in the UK. It has been recognised as an important cause of enteric disease in humans and complications of infection can lead to renal damage and death. E. coli O157 is shed (excreted) in the faeces of ruminant animals such as cattle and sheep and, in the UK, has been implicated in outbreaks of human disease via the cross-contamination of foods and direct contact with faeces or affected animals​.”

The FSA research review follows a recommendation by the public inquiry into the September 2005 outbreak of E. coli O157 in South Wales to consider the feasibility of identifying supershedder cattle as a means of reducing the likelihood of spreading E. coli O157 to other cattle. Supershedder cattle are animals which shed high numbers of organisms.


The report referred to evidence that routine testing of livestock may not be a cost-effective or practical means of preventing supershedders livestock entering the slaughterhouse. But it may be possible to cut shedding in the whole herd prior to slaughter.

Although scientists have studied feeding regimes, farm management and biosecurity practices designed to protect against colonisation of animals and limit shedding, specific strategies for controlling E. coli O157 have not been implemented.

FSA expects the review to be completed by June 2011.

The 2005 outbreak was the largest in Wales and the second largest in the UK. A total of 157 cases were identified; 31 people were hospitalized, and one child died.

Related topics Food Safety & Quality

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