Food supply chain probe to track fatal E.coli

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

The FSA is probing the food supply chain to trace the origin of the fatal E.coli outbreak
The FSA is probing the food supply chain to trace the origin of the fatal E.coli outbreak

Related tags: Food supply chain, Food safety, Foodborne illness, Escherichia coli

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is investigating the food supply chain – including food manufacturers – to track down the source of the latest fatal E.coli outbreak. 

Two people have died and 151 cases have been confirmed in the outbreak, which has been linked to eating mixed salad leaves.

Yesterday (July 19), 144 cases of E.coli ​had been confirmed in England, with a further six in Wales and one in Scotland.

The FSA told FoodManufacture.co.uk that its incidents team was trying to find the source of the outbreak by tracking its development through the food supply chain.

The team is looking at all areas of the chain from food manufacturers, producers and retailers.

A ‘challenging’ case

A spokeswoman at the FSA admitted it was a “challenging”​ case. The organisation was working closely with Public Health England (PHE) to trace the origin of the outbreak.

PHE told FoodManufacture.co.uk it was remaining “vigilant”​ about further cases of the E.coli​ and the clues they may provide about the source of the fatal food poisoning outbreak.

It has convened a national outbreak control team to ensure all necessary control measures were put in place.

‘Young and the elderly’

Dr Isabel Oliver, director of PHE’s field epidemiology service, said: “We take all outbreaks of foodborne illness seriously, particularly where E.coli O157 is concerned as the illness can be serious particularly for the young and the elderly.

“In 2011 there was an outbreak of E.coli linked to leeks and potatoes which affected around 250 people and sadly a death was linked to that outbreak. 

“We remain vigilant to further cases for the current outbreak.”

The PHE was expected to announce an update on the numbers of people affected in the next few days.

Read more about the outbreak here​.

Meanwhile, managing the safety of food and drink products will take centre stage at the Food Manufacture Group’s annual food safety conference.

This year’s event – Boosting consumer confidence in times of change​ – will take place at etc.venues, Prospero House, Southwark, London on October 13.

What is E.Coli 0157?

Escherichia coli​ O157, sometimes called VTEC – or Verocytotoxigenic Escherichia coli​ –  is a bacterial infection that can cause severe stomach pain, bloody diarrhoea and kidney failure.

It is found in the gut and faeces of many animals, particularly cattle. It can be caught by eating contaminated food, such as raw leafy vegetables or undercooked meat, touching infected people and drinking or playing in infected water.

Symptoms include: diarrhoea, stomach cramps and occasionally fever. People usually notice symptoms three to four days after they have been infected, but symptoms can start any time between one and 14 days afterwards. These symptoms​ can last up to two weeks.

  • Source: NHS

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