28 June 2000
New task force on E.coli

By Isabel Davies

A NEW task force is to be set up in Scotland to look at how to protect people from E.coli 0157 and make sure they know the best hygiene precautions to take.

The new group, led by the Scottish Food Standards Agency and the Scottish Executive Health Department, will develop a strategy for minimising infection.

The move follows new research which shows the main source of infection is human contact with farm livestock and environmental contamination.

Case control studies have shown that a high proportion of human cases of E.coli 0157 were exposed to environmental factors.

Sufferers came into contact with gardens, farms, farm animals or farmland contaminated by infected farm animals or water supplies.

Dr George Paterson, FSA director in Scotland suggested that advice recently re-issued by the Scottish Executive about E.coli 0157 did not go far enough.

“Clearly more needs to be done to let the public know that E.coli 0157 is about much more than eating contaminated food.”

The task force would bring together experts from a number of different fields – health, rural affairs and environment representatives, he said.

Sir John Arthbuthnott, chairman of the Scottish Food Advisory Body said: “E.coli 0157 and the dangers it poses are well-known and tragic outbreaks.

“It is a problem which needs a co-ordinated and direct intervention if we are to make a real impact and reduce the risks to public health.”

The issue of E.coli continues to make the headlines.

Three weeks ago a group of young people on scout camp in Aberdeenshire were confirmed as having contracted the bug.

Earlier this year, Professor Hugh Pennington, who led the inquiry into the of Lanarkshire E.coli outbreak in 1996, called for restrictions on farm visits.

Children under 5-years-old should be kept away from farms to minimise E.coli infections, he said.