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E.Coli Warning: is Your Salad Safe?

Public Health England has issued a warning over rocket leaves sold to UK supermarkets and restaurants following concerns it could be the source of an E.coli outbreak.

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To date, Public Health England has been informed of 151 cases - 144 people in England, six in Wales and one in Scotland.

Of these, 62 needed hospital care and two patients died.

Dr Isobel Oliver from PHE, said: "All food sample results to date have been negative for E. coli O157 - but it's important to be aware that where food has been contaminated with E. coli O157, it is not always possible to identify the bacteria on food testing.

"As an additional precautionary measure, we have advised a small number of wholesalers to cease adding some imported rocket leaves to their mixed salad products pending further investigations."

The NHS states that there are a number of different types of Escherichia coli (E. coli) and while the majority are harmless some can cause serious food poisoning and serious infection. Increasing numbers of outbreaks have been linked with fruit and vegetables. In these cases, the contamination occurs due to contact with animal faeces and can be transmitted between people via the oral-faecal route.

Symptoms may include:

  • Cramps
  • Stomach pain
  • Bloody diarrhoea
  • Fever 
  • Vomiting


E. coli can cause serious, lasting effects. Five per cent of patients suffering E. coli poisoning develop Hemolytic Uremic syndrome (HUS), a condition that results from the abnormal premature destruction of red blood cells, preventing the kidneys’ filtering system.

It is a farm’s responsibility to manage the cleanliness of their produce, and the supermarket’s responsibility in stocking quality food that their customers may purchase without fearing they'll suffer E. coli poisoning.

Care and consideration of hygiene during food preparation is essential in avoiding food poisoning and ensuring fresh food is stored appropriately and use-by-dates are consulted before consumption.

Testing has suggested the E.coli strain may come from the Mediterranean area.

The FCA has not yet advised people avoid salad, but consumers should thoroughly wash all salad and vegetables to minimise any risk. If eating out and you’re in doubt, we suggest that you ask your waiter where the salad is imported from, and how it is prepared.

Paul McClorry is a senior personal injury solicitor and head of travel litigation at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK.

If you would like to make a food poisoning compensation claim, whether the illness has occurred in the UK or abroad, call us 24/7 for a free consultation on freephone 0800 916 9046 or on +44 20 7657 155 if you are calling from outside the UK.

Alternatively contact us online and let us know when and where to call you.

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