Two people have died due to E. coli bacterial infection linked to mixed salad greens. Customers are being warned to wash mixed salad leaves thoroughly before consuming them.
Public Health England (PHE) is conducting an ongoing investigation to identify the exact cause of the outbreak. However, people believe the rocket leaves in mixed salad greens are the main sources.
PHE already issued an advice to food distributors to halt the addition of rocket leaves to pre-packed salad greens while the investigation is still ongoing. Additionally, the health experts said consumers should wash these mixed salad bags thoroughly before consuming them.
Health experts said that there have been 151 cases of E. coli O157 bug infection in the United Kingdom to date, with patients who have consumed pre-packed mixed greens. Out of these, 144 cases were reported in England. Wales has six cases while Scotland has one.
Among the cases, 62 needed to be hospitalized for treatments while two have already died. The majority of the E. coli infection cases in England were from the South West.
"All food sample results to date have been negative for E. coli O157 - but it's important to be aware that where food has been contaminated with E. coli O157," said PHE's Dr. Isobel Oliver, adding that identifying the bacteria is not always possible through food testing.
The health agency is using several techniques to test the samples of food believed to be infected by the bacteria. These techniques include whole genome sequencing (WGS), which indicated that the current E. coli strain came overseas, possibly from the Mediterranean.
The E. coli O157 bacteria can be found in the feces and guts of animals, especially cattle. Outbreaks can happen through the bacterial contamination of food and water.
Prevention can be done by washing hands thoroughly after potential contact as well as keeping away unwashed vegetables from ready-to-eat ones. The agency also advised that young children should be supervised by adults when washing their hands.
The bacteria can cause people to suffer from bloody diarrhea and abdominal pain. Patients infected with E. coli are advised to take a lot of rest and fluids to prevent fatigue and dehydration. Patients are advised to avoid anti-diarrheal medications, which slows down the digestive system and prevents the body from eradicating the toxins.
PHE first alerted the general public about the E. coli outbreak late last month. The agency is working with the Food Standards Agency in the current investigation to analyze salad products grown not just in the UK but also in other areas in Europe.