Two die as hunt for food source of E. coli outbreak continues

The E. coli outbreak centred on south-west England has claimed its first victims as Public Health England (PHE) continues to search for its source, with "an imported strain" borne on mixed salad leaves the prime suspect.

Image: Morguefile
Image: Morguefile

Following its original warning on 5 July, PHE yesterday (14 July) confirmed that 151 cases of this strain of E.coli O157 have been identified. Of these, 62 have received hospital, and of those two have died.

Director of PHE's field epidemiology service Dr Isabel Oliver said: "PHE has been working to establish the cause of the outbreak and has identified that several of the affected individuals 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. Testing has indicated that the strain involved is likely to be an imported strain, possibly from the Mediterranean area."

PHE is working with the Food Standards Agency to trace, sample and test salad products grown in the UK and other parts of Europe, though all have so far come up negative for E.coli O157.

"As an additional precautionary measure, we have advised a small number of wholesalers to cease adding some imported rocket leaves to their mixed salad products pending further investigations," Oliver added.

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