Some 256 cases have been confirmed as authorities work with suppliers to prevent a reoccurrence

Lettuce in sandwiches and wraps is believed to be the cause of the outbreak

Lettuce in sandwiches and wraps is believed to be the cause of the outbreak

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is investigating a rising number of cases of E. coli associated with salad leaves in sandwiches.

As of 18 June, there have been a total of 256 confirmed UK cases of STEC O145, of which all confirmed cases had symptom onset dates before 31 May. Although the rate of cases has now slowed, the FSA expects the figure to rise as NHS laboratories refer specimens to UKHSA for genomic sequencing, which can link cases to this outbreak strain.

Investigations have highlighted pre-packaged sandwich products containing lettuce as the likely source of the outbreak. Of the confirmed cases, some 38 per cent were admitted to hospital.

Symptoms of infections with STEC include severe and sometimes bloody diarrhoea, stomach cramps, vomiting and fever. 

Based on evidence to date, the FSA and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) have published precautionary product recall notices covering a range of products that are potentially contaminated with E. coli. 

The FSA has also issued consumer advice including tips on what symptoms to look out for and who to contact in the event of falling ill.

Darren Whitby, head of incidents at the FSA, 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 in these products.

”This follows extensive investigations into the cause of an ongoing outbreak caused by shiga toxin-producing E.coli (STEC) which is being carried out by the FSA, FSS and UKHSA, working closely with the relevant enforcing authorities across Local Authorities. 

”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.

”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 reoccurrence. 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. Information is being gathered at pace and is under constant review to ensure we minimise any further risk to consumers.”