STEC O:145 Outbreak

In light of the recent STEC O:145 outbreak, the FPC have been working closely with the FSA to understand the implications for the fresh produce industry.

STEC (shiga toxin-producing E. coli) is a group of pathogenic bacteria that cause gastrointestinal illness with the increased risk of further complications. There have been an increasing number of non O:157 cases over recent years. STEC is often associated with contamination from animal sources, such as raw manure, contaminated water sources or animal activity in crops.

In the recent outbreak, there have been over 150 cases of illness reported during this outbreak with approximately 40 hospitalisations. This number may increase as test results and whole genome sequencing become available.

Onset dates of illness were reported around the end of April with a key date being the 14th May. A full investigation and supply chain analysis was conducted by the Food Standards Agency - with all ingredients being subject to investigation.

As a precautionary measure, Samworths and Greencore withdrew a range of sandwiches and wraps on the 13/14th June.

Whilst salad leaves in manufactured sandwiches, wraps and boxed salads have been indicated as a potential source, the investigation is continuing as, to date, there has been no single consistent cause found (varying varieties, countries of origin and production systems).

The FPC have been meeting weekly with the FSA to keep updated on the situation and are supporting both the investigation and industry.

Whilst generic E.coli as an indicator organism and O:157 are regularly included in microbiological testing requirements for fresh produce and inputs such as water and organic inputs, STEC (shiga toxin-producing E. coli) is not widely tested for in the UK. Lab capacity is limited and many samples may need to be subcontracted to EU labs. For STEC to be tested and isolated, this requires labs to be Class 3 category which requires the very highest level of control for operator safety and contamination.

We are currently working with UK labs and other trade associations to understand the STEC testing and isolation capacity.

FPC advocate that growers continue to follow all Good Agricultural Practices, with special focus on contamination routes into ready to eat crops (those that can be eaten raw and not subject to processing or a further kill step).

Risk assessment of water sources, organic inputs and crop location is essential for all crops and the necessary mitigation factors must be in place pre-planting and pre-harvest.

We will be covering this outbreak in detail during the next Technical Meeting, but should any member require further information, please contact Kelly Shields,

Further Government Advice on STEC can be found here:

E. coli advice issued amid rise in cases - GOV.UK (

Protecting consumers from infection with Shiga toxin-producing E.coli (STEC) | Food Standards Agency

Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli: guidance, data and analysis - GOV.UK (

Investigation into an outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) O145 in Great Britain, May to June 2024 - GOV.UK (

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