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Preventing the spread of E-Coli 0157 in your food business

This bacteria can cause serious health problems and in a significant number of cases, death, particularly in the young and elderly. E Coli 0157 is found in 15% - 16% of cattle, in other food animals and unwashed raw vegetables.

The major problem, and one that must be noted by food handlers, is that only a few E Coli 0157 bacteria are needed to cause ill health - as few as 10 bacteria compared with the millions for Salmonella.

These bacteria are normally destroyed by thorough cooking (above 75 degrees for 3 minutes). However, problems are likely to arise if previously cooked foods become contaminated with bacteria from raw food. This is called cross-contamination. The danger is that the previously cooked food is not likely to be subjected to further cooking and may be re-contaminated by raw food.

Remember that cooked food includes pies, pasties, cold meats as well as those dishes intended to be served hot.

 

Preventing cross contamination

Some simple rules need to be observed by all food handlers when preparing food to avoid the risk of causing food poisoning.

  • Store raw and cooked foods in separate areas or refrigerators. If this is not possible then cooked foods should be stored above raw meats to prevent accidental spillage or droplet contamination.
  • Separate (colour coded) utensils and preparation areas/surfaces should be used for raw and cooked foods. Where this is not possible due to the design of the kitchen all surfaces and utensils should be thoroughly washed with hot soapy water and preparation surfaces should then be disinfected using food safe sanitisers that should conform to BS 1276 or BS 13697. They should be used in quantities as directed on the container by the manufacturer.
  • Use single use e.g. Disposable paper wiping cloths in the 'clean' area of the kitchen.
  • Keep all waste in covered washable or disposable containers and eradicate any infestation of vermin or insects.
  • On entry to a food preparation area
  • After using the W.C
  • After preparing raw meat
  • Before the preparation of ready to eat foods
  • Handle food as little as possible and where practicable use tongs or protective film.

For guidance concerning E. COLI O157 CONTROL OF CROSS-CONTAMINATION, click here 

Many businesses will already be following the steps contained in the guidance but it is intended to provide reassurance to businesses that they are doing everything they can to prevent cross-contamination and protect their customers from food poisoning.

The key measures highlighted in the guidance that are required to control E.coli are:

  • Identification of separate work areas, surfaces and equipment for raw and ready-to-eat foods.
  • Use separate complex equipment, such as vacuum packing machines, slicers and mincers for raw and ready-to-eat foods.
  • Good personal hygiene by all staff including handwashing carried out using an effective technique. Anti-bacterial gels cannot be used instead of handwashing with soap and water.
  • Disinfectants and sanitisers should conform to the British Standards set by BS EN 1276:1997 or BS EN 13697:2001. These products should always be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Useful links

Food Standards Agency

E-Coli fact sheet