Two people have died after they became infected with E.coli that has been linked to eating salad leaves. Health experts have warned people to wash salad leaves thoroughly.
Officials of the Public Health England (PHE) are investigating an outbreak of E.coli O157. A total of 144 E.coli infection cases has been reported in England, six in Wales and one in Scotland.
‘The source of the E.coli O157 outbreak is not confirmed and remains under investigation. The symptoms of E.coli O157 include bloody diarrhea and abdominal pain.
The investigators are trying to establish whether the salad leaves may be the reason for the outbreak and are looking at rocket imported from the Mediterranean.
As a precautionary measure, a small number of wholesalers have been advised to stop adding some imported rocket leaves to their mixed salad bags.
Dr Isabel Oliver, director of PHE's field epidemiology service, said, "Several of those diagnosed with E.coli O157 ate mixed salad leaves, including rocket leaves, prior to becoming unwell. Currently, the source of the outbreak is not confirmed and remains under investigation; we are not ruling out other food items as a potential source."
PHE is using various testing methods, including whole genome sequencing (WGS) to find the cause of the outbreak. WGS has indicated that the strain involved is likely to be an imported strain.
"PHE is also working closely with the Food Standards Agency to trace, sample and test salad products grown in the UK and other parts of Europe. All food sample results to date have been negative for E.coli O157, but it's important to be aware that where food has been contaminated with E.coli O157, it is not always possible to identify the bacteria on food testing," said Dr Oliver.
The symptoms of E.coli O157 include mild to bloody diarrhea and severe abdominal pain. The infection can be passed on to other people through poor hand washing and toilet hygiene.
Tips to Avoid E.coli O157 Outbreak
- PHE advised people to remove any loose soil before storing vegetables.
- Thoroughly wash all vegetables and salads that will be eaten raw.
- People should wash their hands with soap and water after using the toilet, before handling food and after contact with pets and farm animals.
- Supervise young children when they wash their hands.