E.coli linked to bacteria in soil

People are being warned to wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly after experts linked an E.coli outbreak to bacteria contained in soil.







Some 250 people became ill with gastrointestinal disease, including vomiting and diarrhoea, between December last year and this July.



They had a subtype of E.coli O157 known as Phage Type 8 (PT8) and cases occurred across England, Scotland and Wales.



Some 74 people ended up in hospital, with four suffering from a complication called Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome (HUS). One patient, who had underlying health problems, died.



Today, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) said people should ensure they wash fruit, vegetables and salads thoroughly, and keep their kitchens clean to prevent another potential outbreak.



An HPA investigation found a link between the illness and handling loose leeks and potatoes in the home.



The cases involved potatoes and leeks bought in or bought from sacks, rather than those that were pre-packaged.



There was no evidence that one particular retailer or variety of the vegetable was to blame.



Researchers found that people who were unwell were 40 times more likely to have been in a household where people handled leeks sold loose, and 12 times more likely to have been in a household where people handled potatoes bought in or sold from sacks.



However, while handling raw vegetables offered an explanation for most cases, it did not explain them all.



Dr Bob Adak, a gastrointestinal disease expert at the HPA and head of the outbreak control team, said: "Our study showed a statistically significant association with raw loose leeks and potatoes from sacks but these vegetables may not be the only source of contamination.



"We also want to stress that it is safe to eat these vegetables as long as they have been stored correctly, thoroughly washed before cooking and good kitchen hygiene practices are followed.



"In this outbreak, which is now over, the vegetables could have carried traces of contaminated soil.



"It is possible people caught the infection from cross contamination in storage, inadequate washing of loose vegetables, insufficient hand washing after handling the vegetables or by failing to thoroughly clean kitchen equipment, utensils or surfaces after preparing the vegetables."



Dr Andrew Wadge, chief scientist at the Food Standards Agency, said: "It's sadly a myth that a little bit of dirt doesn't do you any harm; soil can sometimes carry harmful bacteria and, although food producers have good systems in place to clean vegetables, the risk can never be entirely eliminated.



"Control of infection from E.coli O157 relies on an awareness of all potential sources of the bacteria and high standards of hygiene where it may be present.



"This outbreak is a timely reminder that it is essential to wash all fruits and vegetables, including salad, before you eat them, unless they are labelled 'ready to eat', to ensure that they are clean.



"It is also important to wash hands thoroughly as well as clean chopping boards, knives and other utensils after preparing vegetables to prevent cross contamination."



Dr Adak, from HPA, said the risk of E.coli was very small compared to the "huge benefit" of eating plenty of vegetables.



"But E.coli O157 is a serious infection that can cause significant harm, and the public can protect themselves by taking simple but essential precautions such as preparing raw vegetables safely."

PA

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
health
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United player ratings
Arts and Entertainment
books
Sport
Nemanja Matic holds the Capital One Cup with Branislav Ivanovic on Sunday
football
News
people
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th-century cartographer created the atlas
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established and expanding ...

    Recruitment Genius: Water Jetting / HGV Driver - Industrial Services

    £14000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Skilled Labouring staff with id...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Executive - OTE £30,000

    £16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Salary: £16k - £20k Dependant o...

    Recruitment Genius: Accountant

    £35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A specialist two partner firm o...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot