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

News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
News
David Ryall in Harry Potter
people
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Sport
Wayne Rooney warms up ahead of the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at White Hart Lane
football
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
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: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

    £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

    Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

    £25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

    £18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have previous experience...

    Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015