21 June 2002

How to reduce E coli incidence

THE incidence of E coli 0157 infection in Scotland continues to be higher than anywhere else in the UK.

Studies are underway to identify why this should be the case. But in the meantime, the Scottish Executive and Food Standards Agency have published advice for farmers who allow recreational use of fields for activities like camping and picnicking during the summer.

"Ideally, to avoid completely any risk of infection by E coli 0157 from this source, fields used for grazing or stockholding of animals should not be used for picnicking and play areas, especially where these involve children," according to the advice.

Sensible precautions suggested to reduce risk include:

&#8226 Keep farm animals off the fields for the preceding three weeks before use.

&#8226 Remove any visible droppings, ideally at the start of the three-week period.

&#8226 Mow the grass, keep it short and remove the clippings before the fields are used for recreation.

&#8226 Keep farm animals off the fields during recreational use.

&#8226 Always wash hands before eating, drinking and smoking.

&#8226 Ensure that water from streams is treated before drinking.

&#8226 Ensure adequate supervision of children, particularly under fives.

The lethal risk associated with E coli 0157 came to light in Scotland in 1996 when 20 people died after eating meat products from a Lanarkshire butcher. &#42