Cause of UK-wide E.coli outbreak believed to be 'lettuce leaves', FSA says

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) says it is “confident” an E.coli outbreak that has affected more than 200 people in the UK came from lettuce leaves. An investigation is currently ongoing to determine the original source though, while multiple supermarkets have withdrawn potentially contaminated foods from shelves.

According to the latest data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), there were a further 98 confirmed cases of shiga toxin-producing E.coli (STEC) in the UK as of June 11.

This brings the total number of cases to 211.

Among 160 of those cases, 42 percent were hospitalised as a result of their symptoms, which can include “severe” bloody diarrhoea and vomiting.

More than 60 food products such as sandwiches, wraps and salads were pulled from shelves in line with the outbreak.

Food companies Samworth Brothers Manton Wood, Greencore Group and THIS! issued a “precautionary” recall of certain foods.

In a response to, the FSA said it was “confident” the source of the outbreak was linked to lettuce leaves.

However, they added that it is “too early to determine the outbreak of the cause”, and that this was part of a “complex and ongoing” investigation.

Darren Whitby, head of incidents at the FSA, explained: “Sandwich manufacturers are taking a precautionary measure to recall various sandwiches, wraps, subs and rolls in response to findings from investigations by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) who are working to identify the cause of an ongoing outbreak caused by shiga toxin-producing E.coli (STEC).

“The full list of products can be found in the product recall information notice (PRIN).

“This is a complex investigation, and we have worked swiftly with the relevant businesses and the local authorities concerned to narrow down the wide range of foods consumed to a small number of salad leaf products that have been used in sandwiches, wraps, subs and rolls.

“Following thorough food chain analysis, these products are being recalled as a precaution.”

He warned of some of the symptoms to look for.

Mr Whitby continued: “Infections caused by STEC bacteria can cause severe bloody diarrhoea and, in some cases, more serious complications.

“We therefore advise any consumers who have any of these products not to eat them.”

The NHS warns that STEC can also cause stomach cramps and a fever.

“About half” of infected people will experience bloody diarrhoea, the health body says.

A small number of cases will go on to develop haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), which can lead to kidney failure.

Symptoms of HUS include urinating less, tiredness, swelling and bruising.

A statement from Greencore Group said: “As a precautionary measure, we have voluntarily recalled a number of sandwiches and wraps due to a potential food safety risk.

“Greencore adheres to the highest standards of food safety, and we are working closely with the Food Standards Agency and our suppliers to better understand the possible source of any potential issue.”

And a spokesperson for THIS! said: “We initiated a precautionary recall of THIS Isn’t Chicken and Bacon Wrap following the recent outbreak of E.coli in sandwiches.

“We want to stress that no E.coli has been detected in the wraps and this recall is purely precautionary and no other products are affected.”

Samworth Brothers Manton Wood was also contacted for comment.

Anyone who has had an E.coli infection should stay away from work or school until they have been completely free of symptoms for 48 hours, the NHS says.

You should call NHS 111 or contact your GP surgery if:

  • You’re worried about a baby under 12 months
  • Your child stops breast or bottle feeding while they’re ill
  • A child under five years has signs of dehydration, such as fewer wet nappies
  • You or your child (over five years) still have signs of dehydration after using oral rehydration sachets
  • You or your child keep being sick and cannot keep fluid down
  • You or your child have bloody diarrhoea or bleeding from the bottom
  • You or your child have diarrhoea for more than seven days or vomiting for more than two days.


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