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E. coli Outbreak in the UK

11 June 2024

The UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA) has reported an outbreak of E. coli, with over 100 confirmed cases and dozens hospitalised with food poisoning. The outbreak is believed to be linked to contaminated nationally distributed food, but the source has not yet been confirmed.

How E. coli spreads

E. coli can contaminate meats, food crops, water, and unpasteurized milk and cheese. It can spread through:

  • Contact with contaminated food or water
  • Human carriers who don't properly wash their hands after using the toilet
  • Pets and zoos that are contaminated

Symptoms of E. coli infection

Symptoms of E. coli infection typically appear within 3-9 days of consuming contaminated food and include:

  • Severe stomach cramps
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting


Complications can include thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), a life-threatening condition.

Prevention measures

To reduce the risk of gastrointestinal infections and prevent the spread of the infection:

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water, especially after using the toilet and before preparing food
  • Follow food hygiene measures, such as washing fruit and vegetables and cooking food properly
  • Use disinfectants to clean surfaces that may be contaminated
  • Avoid preparing food for others if you have diarrhoea and vomiting
  • Do not visit people in hospitals or care homes if you have diarrhoea and vomiting

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Preventing cross-contamination for food environments

To control and reduce the risk of E. coli in your business, you must comply with food hygiene legislation and ensure all work areas, surfaces and equipment for raw and ready-to-eat food are adequately separated and all areas are cleaned and disinfected. Staff must wash their hands to a high standard. You must follow specific legal requirements to ensure that food is safe. Food safety e-learning courses are available online and on demand from our Arco Professional Safety Services team. See below the list of relevant options available.

  • Food Safety & Hygiene (Level 1)
  • Food Safety & Hygiene (Level 2)
  • Food Safety & Hygiene (Level 3)
  • HACCP Level 2

Click here to view all courses

What to do if you have symptoms

If you have symptoms of E. coli infection, do not return to work, school, or nursery until 48 hours after your symptoms have stopped. If you are worried or experiencing severe symptoms, call NHS 111 or contact your GP surgery.

Important notes

Many people recover well from E. coli infection, but some individuals, such as young children, can become very unwell. It is crucial to take steps to prevent the spread of the infection and seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or persist.