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expert reaction to recall of various sandwiches, wraps and salads because of possible E. coli contamination


A selection of sandwiches, wraps and salads have been recalled due to possible E. coli contamination.


Prof Paul Hunter, Professor in Medicine, University of East Anglia (UEA), said:
“STEC infections are a particular type of E. coli that can cause diarrhoea. Most E. coli do not cause diarrhoea. STEC infections can be very severe and there is a higher risk of hospitalisation and death in people with STEC infections than we see in most other causes of diarrhoea. Deaths where they occur are usually in the very young, the very old and those with pre-existing illnesses. STEC infections are also a leading cause of kidney failure in children.

“If the current outbreak is linked with sandwiches, then the most likely problem is contaminated ingredients. The most likely ingredient would be leafy salads or sprouted seeds. In 2019 my colleagues and I published a paper summarising all STEC outbreaks linked to salads or sprouted seeds We identified 35 such outbreaks globally, though it was rarely the case that the E. coli was detected in the product. The most common identified reason that the product had been contaminated was contaminated water during growth, harvesting or processing.

“But salads are only one possible cause of STEC outbreaks. In another one of our papers we identified outbreaks linked to other food products such as undercooked beef, unpasteurised milk and dairy products, contact with farm animals or their manure, untreated drinking water, swimming in contaminated surface waters, international travel and contact with ill people.

“But not all STEC infections are associated with outbreaks. In a large epidemiological study of such non-outbreak infections in the UK, we found that most infections were associated with overseas travel, working in childcare, contact with non-domestic animals such as visits to petting zoos or swimming in the sea. We were not able to reliably investigate food risks in this study.

“It is very difficult to reduce your risk of STEC from foodborne infections other than by cutting out many food items, which is probably unrealistic. However, good handwashing practice especially if you are preparing food, caring for pre-school children or are ill or in contact with others who are ill is very important in risk reduction.”

(not a third party comment ) Darren Whitby, Head of Incidents at the FSA said:
“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.
“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 FSA is here to ensure that food is safe. If there are products on the market that are not, we won’t hesitate to take action to remove them”.

*Greencore Group recalls sandwiches, wraps and salads because of possible contamination with E. coli –

UKHSA update: 

Declared interests
None received


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