E.coli O157 & Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome

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21st August 2012

It is there on every packet of salad: ‘wash before eating’. But how many of us will simply rip open the wrapping and empty the contents into a salad bowl, or tear it into a sandwich without a second thought?

Doing so could yield unpleasant results, says the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the Government’s advisory body.

Last year, Spanish cucumbers and German beansprouts made headlines worldwide as being possible sources of a deadly outbreak. A variety of the bacterium E.coli that was pathogenic (capable of causing infection) had killed six people and left almost 300 very ill in Germany.

Most of us are aware of the risk of food poisoning from meat and poultry if they’re not properly stored, handled or cooked, but we don’t tend to think of vegetables and fruit as posing a risk to our health.

FSA chief scientist Andrew Wadge says: ‘Recent E.coli outbreaks linked with vegetables have shown that handling fresh produce can also spread harmful bacteria.’

Yet the FSA’s research revealed public complacency. ‘Perceived risk of food poisoning from vegetables was low, whereas most people questioned were cautious when handling meat,’ Wadge says.

But really, how much danger can lettuce pose? And besides, doesn’t a bit of dirt do us good?

To find out, The Mail on Sunday conducted a special investigation – and discovered food-poisoning bacteria could be present in one in 20 lettuces in some supermarkets.

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