E. coli O157 outbreak sickens more than 100 in UK

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

Reported cases have risen to 109, according to PHE
Reported cases have risen to 109, according to PHE

Related tags: E. coli, Hygiene, Escherichia coli, Escherichia coli o157:h7

The number of people sickened by an E. coli O157 outbreak linked to leafy salads in the UK has jumped to 109.

Public Health England (PHE) said they have identified 102 cases in England, six in Wales and one in Scotland with the majority confirmed in the South West of England.

The agency said 32 cases had been reported in a statement last week with all of them adults and the majority being female. The demographics of the additional cases have not been revealed. The number of illnesses had increased to 84 before the latest update.

The strain involved in the outbreak has been identified as phage type (PT) 34.

PHE has identified that several of the affected individuals ate mixed salad leaves including rocket leaves prior to becoming unwell.

Surveillance stepped up

PHE has put in place heightened surveillance for this strain of E. coli and is monitoring the reporting of cases across the country.

To assist with the investigation, it has convened a national outbreak control team to identify the source of infection and to ensure necessary control measures are put in place.

Details such as when the outbreak started, illness onset dates, if contaminated product could still be on the market or how it got contaminated have not been disclosed by the agency.

The source of the outbreak has not been confirmed and PHE said it was not ruling out other food items.

The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) told us, when the outbreak came to light, that it was involved but PHE is leading the investigation. It added no food source had been confirmed, so advice is precautionary.

PHE said it would continue to work with the FSA to provide any further necessary public health advice as investigations continue.

Food hygiene message

Dr Isabel Oliver, director of PHE’s field epidemiology service, stressed the importance of good hand and food hygiene practices at all times.

“It is vital to wash hands thoroughly using soap and water after using the toilet, before and after handling food and after contact with any animal and pets, including farm animals. Small children should also be supervised when washing their hands,” ​she said.

"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."

E. coli linked to prepacked salads sickened 40 people in the UK last year, according to PHE.

In that investigation two salad products from one supermarket chain which shared one ingredient were suspected to be the source and traceback identified one packer/distributor supplied by three farms.

  • This article was updated on July 5 to include the most recent case count information and link to rocket leaves provided by PHE.

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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