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Salad Leaves E. coli Investigation Continuing

July 18, 2016

Public Health England (PHE) is continuing to investigate an outbreak of E. coli 0157 that has so far produced 151 cases across the UK. The outbreak is believed to be associated with mixed salad leaves and has resulted in two deaths.

The South West of England has been particularly badly hit while 62 people across the country have required hospital care. Consumption of rocket leaves seems to be a common factor amongst those affected by the bacteria which has been identified as phage type (PT) 34.

Director of PHE’s field epidemiology service Dr Isabel Oliver, explained that the latest scientific techniques are being used to try to identify the source. “PHE is using various approaches including whole genome sequencing (WGS) to test samples from those affected,” she said. “WGS technologies are at the forefront of improving diagnosis of infectious diseases and this testing has indicated that the strain involved is likely to be an imported strain, possibly from the Mediterranean area. All food sample results to date have been negative for E. coli 0157, but it’s important to be aware that where food has been contaminated with E. coli 0157, it is not always possible to identify the bacteria on food testing.”

As a precaution, a small number of wholesalers have been told to stop using imported rocket leaves in their salad products. At this stage, PHE has not ruled out the possibility of a single food manufacturer being the main source or that other food items may be the cause of the outbreak.