More than 250 people have now been infected with E.coli linked to lettuce in meal-deal sandwiches, the Government has said.

A total of 45 cases have been identified since last Friday and of the 256 total known cases, more than a third are thought to have been taken to hospital.

All cases are thought to have developed symptoms prior to May 31 and the rate of known cases is slowing down.

Experts are not yet saying the outbreak is over, as more cases could be identified in the coming weeks as complex analysis, including whole genome sequencing, takes place on samples.

Dozens of ready-to-eat sandwiches sold at major shops including Tesco, Boots and Sainsbury’s were recalled as a precaution after people contracted shiga toxin-producing E.coli (Stec).

Questionnaires to sick people revealed many of them had recently consumed sandwiches with lettuce in them, which is now believed to be the source of the outbreak, despite no tests coming back positive for Stec on recalled products.

Three companies which make ready-to-eat sandwiches, wraps and baguettes issued precautionary recalls of products in the last couple of weeks, including Greencore, a ready-meal food giant that supplies major supermarkets.

Health officials and food safety experts now believe salad leaves were the source of the contamination, but it remains unknown where in the supply chain the lettuce became contaminated, when this happened, how this happened, and if it has been resolved.

Darren Whitby, head of incidents at the Food Standards Agency said: “Several sandwich manufacturers have now taken precautionary action to withdraw and recall various sandwiches, wraps, subs and rolls, as food chain and epidemiological links have enabled us to narrow down a wide range of foods consumed to a small number of salad leaves that have been used in these products.

“This remains a complex investigation and we continue to work at pace with the relevant businesses and local authorities to ensure necessary steps are being taken to protect consumers.

Complex investigation

“Although we are confident in the source of the outbreak being linked to a small number of salad leaves, which we identified early on through extensive food chain analysis, work continues to identify the root cause of the outbreak with the growers, suppliers and manufacturers so that actions can be taken to prevent a re-occurrence.

“We will remain vigilant until the root cause of the outbreak is confirmed and we are keeping an open mind about possible causes of the outbreak.”

E. coli are a diverse group of bacteria that are normally harmless and live in the intestines of humans and animals.

However, some strains produce toxins that can make people very ill, such as Stec. People infected with Stec can suffer diarrhoea, and about 50 per cent of cases have bloody diarrhoea.

Other symptoms include stomach cramps and fever and severe cases can lead to kidney failure.

Stec is often transmitted by eating contaminated food but can also be spread by close contact with an infected person, as well as direct contact with an infected animal or where it lives.

People are advised to call NHS 111 or contact their GP surgery if they are worried about a baby under 12 months, a child stops breast or bottle feeding while they are ill, a child under five has signs of dehydration such as fewer wet nappies, and if older children or adults still have signs of dehydration after using oral rehydration sachets.

Help should also be sought if people are being sick and cannot keep fluid down, there is bloody diarrhoea or bleeding from the bottom, diarrhoea lasts more than seven days or vomiting for more than two days.


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2024-06-20T16:14:11Z dg43tfdfdgfd