E.coli outbreak linked to watercress

E.coli outbreak linked to watercress

As of 10 September 2013, 13 people across England had become unwell with the same strain of E.coli bacteria, and four cases had been reported in Wales and one in Scotland. Interviews with patients using detailed food questionnaires revealed a strong link to the consumption of watercress, and most of the people who were unwell reported buying watercress at Sainsbury’s.


As a precautionary measure, Sainsbury’s have issued a product withdrawal for its bagged watercress and other salads that contain watercress, and the outbreak is being investigated by PHE and the FSA as a matter of urgency.


In England 10 out of the 13 cases are female and 3 are male. Nine are aged over 50. The outbreak has been linked to verocytotoxin-producing ‘E. coli’ (VTEC).


Dr Dilys Morgan, head of gastrointestinal, emerging and zoonotic diseases department at PHE said: “This outbreak is mainly affecting older people. Since children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable for the complications of VTEC infections, it is important that we took action as soon as possible.”


Symptoms from infection with VTEC range from mild gastroenteritis to severe bloody diarrhoea. The most serious complications can lead to blood poisoning and kidney failure.


Dr Morgan added: “We have a robust surveillance system in place for VTEC and this helped us identify that watercress was the most probable food item which was causing the illness. We then followed this up with detailed food questionnaires and this confirmed that most cases had eaten it. “The FSA immediately contacted the retailer with the details of the outbreak and they promptly took action to withdraw the product.”



By Ingrid Torjesen


On Medica, 13 September 2013

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