12 March 2012
The Health Protection Team which inspects food premises for safety is introducing new guidance for businesses on how to avoid risks from E. coli 0157.
This form of E. coli is a food poisoning bacteria that can have serious health effects particularly in young children. Outbreaks of E. coli in Scotland in 1996 and Wales in 2005 resulted in serious illness in some individuals and, in a few cases, death. These outbreaks were attributed to cross-contamination arising from the poor handling of food, particularly meat and vegetables.
As a result, the 3 food standards agencies in the UK have introduced guidance to food businesses.
Fortunately there have been very few cases of E. coli 0157 in Jersey. However, as most of the meat and a high proportion of vegetables consumed in the Island are imported from or through the UK, the risks to health in Jersey will be similar to those in the UK and without controls an outbreak is a possibility.
Mike Arnold, interim Environmental Health Manager said "The scale of the work done to research the guidance would be impossible to replicate in Jersey and it is therefore appropriate to adopt the guidance in full for use in Jersey. The Health Protection Team will use this to work with businesses to help them control the risks.
"Premises that present a high risk of cross contamination are already being visited by the team and advice is being given on how to reduce the risks to acceptable levels. The risk of an outbreak of E. coli 0157 is small, but the consequences to individuals could be serious and it is appropriate that we should work with businesses to reduce the likelihood of an outbreak even further.”
E. coli O157 is spread in a number of ways, including eating or drinking contaminated food or drink, direct or indirect contact with infected animals and person-to-person contact.
E. coli 0157 can be transmitted from raw meat and vegetables contaminated with soil.
Infection usually results in a severe food poising episode but it can lead to permanent kidney damage and death.
The guidance is available on the Food Standards Agency website.