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E. coli O157 outbreak might be associated with mixed salad leaves

19 July 2016  •  Author(s): Victoria White, Digital Content Producer

Public Health England (PHE) continues to investigate an outbreak of E. coli O157, which appears to be associated with eating mixed salad leaves.


The health body has confirmed 151 cases of this strain of E.coli. Two of the individuals with E. coli O157 have died and sixty-two people are known to have received hospital care.

PHE has been working to establish the cause of the outbreak. While the source of the outbreak is not confirmed and remains under investigation, PHE has identified that several of the affected individuals ate mixed salad including rocket leaves prior to becoming unwell.

PHE and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) are now working to trace, sample and test salad products grown in the UK and other parts of Europe. All of the sample results to date have been negative for E. Coli O157, however, it is not always possible to identify the bacteria on food testing.

As a precaution, PHE has advised a small number of wholesalers to cease adding some imported rocket leaves to their salad products pending further investigations.

Consumers advised to wash vegetables and salad leaves

The health body also asks consumers to take precaution when preparing food to ensure good hygiene.

Dr Isabel Oliver, director of PHE’s field epidemiology service, said: “We continue to stress the importance of good hand and food hygiene practices at all times. We urge people to remove any loose soil before storing vegetables and thoroughly wash all vegetables (including salads) that will be eaten raw unless they have been pre-prepared and are specifically labelled ‘ready to eat’. These measures may reduce the risk of infection from any E.coli contaminated vegetables, fruit and salad but will not eliminate any risk of infection completely. PHE is working alongside the Food Standards Agency and will provide any further necessary public health advice as investigations continue.

“It’s also vital to wash hands thoroughly using soap and water after using the toilet, before and after handling food and after contact with any animals and pets, including farm animals. Small children should also be supervised when washing their hands.”

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