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UK: Report Suggests Rules for Open Farms

Another report into an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 by an independent commission in the United Kingdom is complete.  Several others preceded it.

This one is known as the “Griffin Report” after Professor George Griffin from St. George’s, University of London.  Professor Griffin is an expert in infectious diseases.

feeding-lamb-featured.jpgHe was named to head the independent inquiry after the UK went through the late summer 2009 outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 where 93 visitors to Godstone Farm were infected.   Most were children.   At the outset the report said those victims “were affected by this devastating disease causing great pain, the requirement for intensive invasive medical support and immense family disruption.”

The report says 17 children went on to develop “the most severe complication of this infection, namely hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).”

None of the children died.

The source of the infection was Godstone Farm, a so-called open farm.   The report provides this definition of open farms in the UK:  “The types of venue where the public may have animal contact are many and varied. Open Farm enterprises may be large scale and include attractions where animal contact is only one part of the visit.

“The age profile of visitors with an interest in animal contact is predominantly the under-10s and their parents or carers. There is no national list of Open Farms, but evidence gathered during our investigations suggests that there are several hundred Open Farm enterprises in the UK and that some have visitor numbers in excess of 200,000 per annum,” the report adds.

The report has several major recommendations, including:

-Farm operators should ensure that the layout and design of public areas are such that visitor contact with animal fecal matter (particularly ruminant) is minimized or eliminated

-There is a need to raise public awareness of the potential infection risks when arriving at a farm attraction, emphasizing the parent/carer’s decision to allow children to have animal contact

-There should be a reassessment of the risk of E. coli O157 infection as ‘low’. Its probability may be low but the impact is high and the consequences very severe

-An Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) should be developed for the Open Farm industry, involving relevant authorities and in close consultation with leading representatives of the industry to underpin the industry’s initiative in establishing an accreditation scheme

-The regulatory agencies and others should explore ways of working together in regulating Open Farms clarifying roles, responsibilities, and relationships.

-Research should be pursued to assist clinicians in the rapid diagnosis of E. coli O157 and the identification of and treatment for children likely to develop severe complications of the infection. Research should also be undertaken aimed at preventing or limiting carriage of the organism in animals.

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