5 sick with E. coli O157, UK nursery closed

Two children from a Teesdale nursery have been taken to hospital after contracting E.coli.

e.coli.uk.nurseryExperts are currently investigating a total of four cases at Kirklands Day Nursery, in Barnard Castle, as two other children are being cared for at home.

A spokeswoman for Public Health England also confirmed a fifth child with recent symptoms is awaiting test results. The children fell ill at about the same time between April 25 and April 27.

The nursery, in Bede Road, has been closed while the organisation, along with Durham County Council, investigates the cause of the infection.

The spokeswoman said: “Experts from Public Health England and Durham County Council can confirm they are investigating four cases of E. coli O157 infection in children who attend Kirklands Day Nursery in Barnard Castle.

“Two of the affected children are currently in hospital and the other two are being looked after at home.

“There is also a fifth child with recent symptoms who is awaiting test results.”

Seek and ye shall find: E. coli O26 testing in UK

Many serogroups of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) other than serogroup O157 (non-O157 STEC), for example STEC O26:H11, are highly pathogenic and capable of causing hemolytic uremic syndrome.

beef.stecA recent increase in non-O157 STEC cases identified in England, resulting from a change in the testing paradigm, prompted a review of the current methods available for detection and typing of non-O157 STEC for surveillance and outbreak investigations. Nineteen STEC O26:H11 strains, including four from a nursery outbreak were selected to assess typing methods. Serotyping and multilocus sequence typing were not able to discriminate between the stx-producing strains in the dataset. However, genome sequencing provided rapid and robust confirmation that isolates of STEC O26:H11 associated with a nursery outbreak were linked at the molecular level, had a common source and were distinct from the other strains analysed. Virulence gene profiling of DNA extracted from a polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-positive/culture-negative faecal specimen from a case that was epidemiologically linked to the STEC O26:H11 nursery outbreak, provided evidence at the molecular level to support that link. During this study, we describe the utility of PCR and the genome sequencing approach in facilitating surveillance and enhancing the response to outbreaks of non-O157 STEC.

The utility and public health implications of PCR and whole genome sequencing for the detection and investigation of an outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli serogroup O26:H11

Epidemiology and Infection, 143, pp 1672-1680




Does food safety inspection disclosure work in the UK? Sortof

The UK Food Standards Agency reports:

The evaluation was commissioned with the Policy Studies Institute in 2011 and ran until mid-2014.  It explored the impact of the FHRS and the FHIS on local authorities, consumers, businesses, food hygiene compliance and the incidence of foodborne disease. The evaluation and other research findings have been discussed by the FSA Board today.

rest.inspection.disclosure.ukIn England, Wales and Northern Ireland businesses are rated from 0 – 5, with 0 being the lowest rating and 5 being the highest. Businesses rated with a 3 or above are considered to be generally satisfactory or better. The FSA recommends consumers choose to eat in these ‘compliant’ establishments.

These final reports provide evidence that the FHRS had a positive impact on business compliance levels. These showed that there was a significant increase in ‘broad compliance’ (equivalent to ratings of 3 to 5) in the first year, and a significant increase in ‘full compliance’ (rating of 5) in the second year in local authority areas after the FHRS was introduced, compared with areas where the scheme was not yet operating.  There was also a significant decrease in the proportion of businesses with very poor levels of compliance in the first two years after launch.

For Scotland, although the general pattern was the same for FHIS, the changes in compliance levels were not statistically significant.

The reports also include findings on consumer views about the scheme and provide some interesting insights.  For example, those using the schemes said they were more likely to refer to hygiene information when in an unfamiliar location, or eating with vulnerable people or for special occasions when planning meals out at Christmas or Valentine’s Day.

£6,700 fine: Pictures show filth at UK Indian takeaway

Disgusting conditions were discovered in a takeaway when a horrified customer shopped the owner after seeing a mouse run into the kitchen.

3772162548Indian Ocean has been ordered to pay out more than £6,700 after its co-director Matab Uddin was banned from running any food business over its filthy kitchen.

An inspector visited the Fratton Road takeaway and found no hot running water for washing up and cooking pots on the floor near rat poison, magistrates were told.

Beware the mud: Mountain bikers and cross-country runners at risk of E.coli poisoning

Mountain bikers and cross-country runners are at risk from the deadly stomach bug E. coli if they get splashed with mud, doctors warned today.

mudMedics at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary say they treated a 23-year-old cyclist for an E. coli O157 infection after he was admitted to the hospital suffering from vomiting, abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea.

The man – a vegetarian – said he had not eaten undercooked meat or vegetables, nor had he spent time with livestock or visiting farms before falling ill.

But eight days before his symptoms began the man had competed in a cycling event along wet, muddy tracks in eastern Scotland.

He, along with other competitors, had removed the mudguards from his bicycle to reduce weight, and mud and water had splashed on his face during the race. 

It is thought this was how he became infected with the bug, which can be found in animal feces and farm slurry.

The man said he had taken part in a ‘Tough Mudder’ event, which involves a 10 -12 mile race with obstacles such as climbing vertical walls and plunging through ice pools.

The cyclist, who has not been identified, recovered – but the doctors have highlighted his case in the Journal of Infection Prevention.

mountain.bike.mudWriting in the research paper, the doctors warned: ‘Sporting endeavours such as cycling and cross-country running events often take participants through such high-risk areas and may be an important cause of contact with E. coli O157.

‘This case highlights such exposure and should alert clinicians to the possibility of E.coli O157 infection and the importance of individuals presenting with bloody diarrhea with a history of participation in similar sporting or other events.’

In 2012, three people contracted E.coli 0O57 infection following a 12-mile ‘Tough Mudder’ event at Drumlanrig Castle, Dumfriesshire, which involved immersion or contact with mud.

Also in 2012, a study of one of the world’s largest mountain bike races, the 95k Birkebeinerrittet in Norway, which annually attracts 19,000 participants, found that when mudguards were attached to bikes, there were fewer cases of gastrointestinal illness.  

The Brits have a way with language: townies wash their hands

Germs. You can’t get away from the blighters. If it’s not the teeming populations of camplylobacter that infest the cavities of supermarketchicken, it’s the E coli, salmonella and worse that disport themselves on our towels and dishcloths.

courtlynn.handwashAgainst these regiments of invisible enemies we deploy a vast arsenal of weapons-grade cleaning products. But while we’re spraying our surfaces with bleach and washing our dishes in Eucalyptus detergent, a shaming 60-odd per cent of us neglect to wash our hands after we’ve visited the loo, according to a Rentokil survey.

While confirming my conviction that you’re better off eating dinner at home, where at least the bugs are mostly familiar, this news has made me reflect on my own handwashing habits which are, I realise, completely perverse.

At home in London, I carry on like Lady Macbeth, washing my hands dozens of times a day. But at weekends, in the stableyard, I find myself cheerfully eating a sandwich from an unwashed hand that moments ago was feeding a horse a mint.

I’ve no idea whether it is my scrupulous townie cleanliness or my robust rural exposure to pathogens that means I’m almost never ill. But either way I view with misgiving Rentokil’s proposed solution to the handwashing recidivists. Stewart Power, its marketing director, predicts that one day every washroom will have a monitoring system “to give us a nudge to wash our hands”.

It’s bad enough being nagged by an electronic voice about an unexplained item in the bagging area. Just imagine the irritation of being slut-shamed by a disembodied nanny in the loo door.

It’s not just chicken but UK wants piping hot bang for its intervention dollar: Campy results released

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has today published the latest set of results from its year-long survey of campylobacter on fresh chickens. Campylobacter is a food bug mainly found on raw poultry and is the biggest cause of food poisoning in the UK.

chickenThe results are published for the first time as Official Statistics and the full report can be found via the link on this page. Cumulative results for samples taken between February and November 2014 have now been published, including results presented by major retailer.

The results to date show:

19% of chickens tested positive for campylobacter within the highest band of contamination.*

73% of chickens tested positive for the presence of campylobacter.

7% of packaging tested positive for the presence of campylobacter. Only three out of more than 3,000 samples of packaging tested positive at the highest band of contamination.

*More than 1,000 colony forming units per gram (>1,000 cfu/g). These units indicate the degree of contamination on each sample.

More than 3,000 samples of fresh whole chilled chickens and packaging have now been tested. Data continue to show variations between the retailers but none is meeting the target for reducing campylobacter (see table below).

The FSA’s 12-month survey, running from February 2014 to February 2015, will test around 4,000 samples of whole chickens bought from UK retail outlets and smaller independent stores and butchers. The full set of results is expected to be published in May.

The FSA has welcomed the publication by M&S of a case-study showing the results from the retailer’s recently implemented five-point intervention plan to reduce campylobacter on its chickens. The preliminary results published by M&S indicate a significant reduction in the number of the most highly contaminated birds.

Steve Wearne, FSA Director of Policy, said: ‘We now know it is possible to make positive inroads in the reduction of campylobacter. Figures released today by M&S show that their intervention plan has resulted in fewer contaminated chickens on sale in their stores. If one retailer can achieve this campylobacter reduction through systematic interventions then others can, and should.

‘Our survey is putting pressure on retailers to work with poultry processors to do more to tackle campylobacter. We want the industry to reduce the number of the most highly contaminated chickens as we know this will have the greatest impact on public health.

‘Campylobacter is killed by thorough cooking, but it should not be left to consumers to manage the risk.’

Is M&S Marks and Spencer or something else?



Retailer Number of
% skin samples positive for campylobacter (95% confidence interval) % skin samples
>1,000 cfu/g campylobacter (95% confidence interval)
% pack samples positive for campylobacter (95% confidence interval)
Asda 491 78.9  (75.2 – 82.4) 31.1  (27.0 – 35.2) 13.0  (10.1 – 16.1)
Co-op 274 75.6  (70.2 – 80.6) 16.4  (12.3 – 20.9) 4.4  (2.1 – 7.0)
M&S 103 72.2  (63.0 – 80.7) 20.7  (13.0 – 29.1) 3.8  (0.8 – 8.1)
Morrison’s 271 76.2  (71.4 – 80.9) 22.9  (18.0 – 28.0) 13.3  (9.5 – 17.4)
Sainsbury’s 451 69.6  (65.4 – 73.7) 14.3  (11.2 – 17.6) 4.0  (2.3 – 6.0)
Tesco 925 68.2  (65.3 – 71.1) 12.3  (10.2 – 14.4) 4.1  (2.9 -5.4)
Waitrose 96 71.7  (62.1 – 80.5) 15.6  (8.5 – 23.7) 6.2  (2.1 – 11.7)
Others[1] 450 76.9  (72.9 – 80.7) 23.2  (19.4 – 27.2) 6.8  (4.6 – 9.2)
Total 3,061 72.9 (71.4 -74.5) 18.9 (17.5 – 20.3) 6.8 (5.9 – 7.7)


[1] The ‘Others’ category includes supermarkets where the market share was deemed small using the 2010 Kantar data: eg Lidl, Aldi, Iceland, plus convenience stores, independents, butchers etc.

How researchers become widgets: UK Newcastle University in take-over bid of government food safety agency

Scientists in the North East will soon be responsible for the future of food safety after winning a joint bid to take-over the Government’s Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera).

newcastle.universityNewcastle University has been selected as the preferred bidder to form a joint venture with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to operate its food and environmental research arm in York.

For 30 years Fera has led the research on major food safety projects in the wake of food fraud scandals such as ‘horsegate’ and foot and mouth.

Now, outsourcing giant Capita has chosen Newcastle University as its science partner to run the research part of the new multimillion pound organisation.

Capita will make an initial investment of £20m for a 75% stake in the joint venture, with further investment, in cash, kind and dividends, during the following five years.

The joint venture will bring together around 40 researchers from Newcastle University.

Capita chief executive, Andy Parker, said: “The excellent science being carried out by staff at Fera has not yet been able to reach its full commercial potential because of obvious limits on investment, recruitment and marketing.

“Capita’s commercial know-how will complement the Fera team’s scientific expertise, helping it to grow the scientific capability it can offer existing and new customers. Working together, we will create a more efficient and improved organisation allowing scientists to focus on the science and its delivery.”

Heard it all before. Best wishes.

Food fraud: 20% samples had undeclared meat in UK lamb takeaway survey

The Food Standards Agency has today published the results of its survey of undeclared meat in lamb dishes from takeaway outlets across the UK. The testing was announced last year and was prompted by evidence of ongoing substitution of lamb for cheaper meats, such as beef and chicken.

sheep.wired.meat.feb.15Local authority trading standards and environmental health officers sampled 307 lamb dishes, such as curries and kebabs, sold from takeaway outlets. All were tested for the presence of undeclared species of meat. Dishes with sauces were also tested for undeclared allergens and the unauthorised use of additives.

Of the samples tested, 223 (73%) were fully compliant with food legislation, 65 samples (21%) failed because of the presence of non-declared meat, 12 samples (4%) tested  positive for the presence of undeclared allergens, including peanut and almonds proteins, and 7 samples (2%) were non-compliant because of the unauthorised use of additives.

The samples that tested positive for undeclared meat showed the presence of beef, chicken, and in one sample pork, although not sold as a halal product. Of these samples, 23 had levels of undeclared meat species below 1% which is more likely to indicate poor handling during processing rather than potential adulteration.

Local authorities have followed up on all samples where problems were identified and relevant action was taken including, in a number of cases, prosecution.

John Barnes, Head of Local Delivery at the FSA, said: ‘Consumers need to know that the food they buy is what it says on the menu or the label. The FSA is working with local authorities to identify potential problems and investigate. Where problems are identified, local authorities are taking corrective action, including prosecuting offending businesses where necessary. The FSA and local authorities are on the lookout for deliberate meat substitution and action will be taken to protect local consumers and legitimate food businesses.’

The FSA’s ongoing work to identify potential food fraud is being coordinated by the recently created Food Crime Unit. As part of this activity, the Food Crime Unit is working closely with local authorities, police forces, other Government departments, and the food industry to pool intelligence and take proactive action to protect consumers.

Transparency? Hepatitis A outbreaks in Belize, UK schools

The Ministry of Health is working to contain a localized outbreak of Hepatitis A at a government school in Buena Vista, Cayo.

hepatitis.AAccording to reports, there was one case of the virus reported before Christmas, and since then at least 20 more cases

The outbreak in a public school has been kept under the radar by the Ministry of Health. When the media asked Ministry of Health C.E.O. Peter Allen about it, he was surprised by the fact that the news had gotten out. But, of course, he claims that the Ministry seems to have the situation under control.

“I don’t know why I am surprised that the media knows more about these things than I ever expect them to but indeed, we appear to have an outbreak of Hepatitis A in that particular school.”

The UK is a tad more forthcoming, noting that vaccinations are being offered to staff and children at a school in Portsmouth after a case of Hepatitis A was discovered.

A pupil at Isambard Brunel Junior School contracted the illness, which is often associated with foreign travel.

Public Health England (PHE) has recommended vaccinations for those who have been in close contact with the child, including a class at the school.