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
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
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

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine