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E.coli 0157 business advice

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E. coli bacteria normally live in the intestines of people and animals. Most E. coli are harmless and are actually an important part of a healthy human intestinal tract.

However, some are pathogenic, meaning they can cause illness, either diarrhea or illness outside of the intestinal tract. The types of E. coli that can cause diarrhoea can be transmitted through contaminated water or food, or through contact with animals or persons.

Control of cross-contamination

The Food Standards Agency has issued guidance for food businesses to clarify the steps that they need to take to control the risk of food becoming contaminated by E.coli O157 and what businesses should be doing to protect their customers.

This guidance has been developed in response to the serious outbreaks of E.coli O157 in Scotland in 1996 and Wales in 2005, which were attributed to cross-contamination arising from poor handling of food.

If you own a butchers shop or work in a butchers shop there is detailed information on the Food Standards Agency website to assist you in identifying specific risks within your business sector and to help you develop procedures to manage food safety.

Key messages for businesses

Although E.coli is the key focus of this guidance, the measures outlined will also help in the control of other bacteria, such as campylobacter and salmonella. Some of the key measures highlighted in the guidance to control E.coli are:

  • Identification of separate work areas, surfaces and equipment for raw and ready-to-eat food.
  • Use of separate complex equipment, such as vacuum-packing machines, slicers, and mincers for raw and ready-to-eat food.
  • Hand washing should be carried out using a recognised technique. Anti-bacterial gels must not be used instead of thorough hand washing.
  • Disinfectants and sanitisers must meet officially recognised standards and should be used as instructed by the manufacturer.

The full guidance, developed following a public consultation and Professor Hugh Pennington’s report into the 2005 E.coli outbreak, can be found at the Food Standards Agency, along with factsheets for businesses, which summarises the guidance.

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