The number of people sick in an E. coli outbreak linked to salad leaves has exceeded 250.

There have been 256 confirmed patients in the Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) O145 outbreak since late May.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), Public Health Scotland, and Public Health Wales are investigating the rise in infections.

In total, 168 people are sick in England, 29 in Wales and 56 in Scotland. Northern Ireland has three cases, who likely acquired their infections in England. Patients have been recorded in most age groups, with the majority being young adults.

Based on information from 227 cases to date, at least 86 people have been admitted to hospitals.

Link to salad in sandwiches
Pre-packed sandwiches containing lettuce are the likely source of the outbreak.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) have published precautionary recall notices covering a range of products potentially contaminated with E. coli. 

Samworth Brothers and Greencore Group recalled a range of products sold at a variety of retailers, such as Tesco, Aldi, Asda, Boots, Co-op, Morrisons, and Sainsbury’s.

Darren Whitby, head of incidents at FSA, said the agency is working with relevant businesses and local authorities on the investigation.

“Several sandwich manufacturers have now taken precautionary action to withdraw and recall various sandwiches, wraps, subs and rolls, as food chain and epidemiological links have enabled us to narrow down a wide range of foods consumed to a small number of salad leaves that have been used in these products,” he said.

“Although we are confident in the source of the outbreak being linked to a small number of salad leaves, which we identified early on through extensive food chain analysis, work continues to identify the root cause of the outbreak with the growers, suppliers and manufacturers so that actions can be taken to prevent a re-occurrence. We will remain vigilant until the root cause of the outbreak is confirmed and we are keeping an open mind about possible causes of the outbreak.”

Legal action
Food safety experts at law firm Leigh Day urged anyone to get in contact if they need guidance after being affected by E. coli in food products.

A chartered surveyor diagnosed with E. coli after eating a sandwich type that has since been recalled has called on lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate his illness.

John Daniels, from Macclesfield in Cheshire, bought a chicken and bacon Caesar wrap from a Manchester Boots branch on May 11. Within two days, the 66-year-old began to feel unwell, complaining of stomach pain. He went on to develop severe diarrhea and began passing blood.

Daniels was admitted to a hospital on May 19. He was diagnosed with E. coli the following day and sent home on May 22. Five days later he returned to the hospital and was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

“What John has suffered over the past few weeks is very concerning, and he’s understandably upset and distressed at what he’s been through as a result of the E. coli infection,” said Sarita Sharma, a public health lawyer at Irwin Mitchell.

“The UKHSA is now investigating and has found that John’s illness is likely to have come from the recalled sandwich. It’s now vital, where applicable, that lessons are learned going forward to keep consumers safe.”

Daniels said: “The past month has been nothing short of traumatic. I’ve never been that unwell before so I knew something was very wrong, but to be told I had E. coli and then Guillain-Barre Syndrome was a huge shock. My condition went from bad to worse as I developed complication after complication. I’m still not right physically, and I don’t know if I ever will be, and to hear how many others have been affected is deeply upsetting.”

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