Farm visit risks are low if hygiene rules are followed

Organisations promoting farm visits are stressing that E.coli outbreaks are extremely rare provided that biosecurity guidelines are followed.

The coverage of the outbreak of E Coli 0157 linked to a Surrey farm is being watched carefully by groups who promote farm visits as a way of reconnecting consumers with food and farming issues.

LEAF, the organisation behind the Open Farm Sunday initiative, stressed that every year tens of thousands of people got great pleasure from visiting a farm.

Provided farmers took appropriate health and safety measures and provided good hand washing facilities were used by all visitors, the risk of E.coli was minimal, it said.

“It is vital for everyone that the increased dialogue between farmers and consumers continues to grow and that farm gates remain open,” said Caroline Drummond, chief executive of LEAF.

“LEAF farmers host hundreds of farm visits every year that demonstrate how they produce the food we eat while caring for the environment. To help farmers ensure the safety of their visitors, we run professional training courses which detail the procedures that must be in place to achieve a safe but enjoyable visit.”

The NFU said it was not commenting on the case in Surrey while the investigation continued.

But NFU director of communications Liz Falkingham added: “The NFU understands that outbreaks of this nature are extremely rare and people visiting farms can be confident that, provided they follow strict hygiene rules, such as washing hands thoroughly after touching animals, the dangers remain low.”