Food Safety Top Tips - E.Coli Advice

What is E. coli?

E. coli is a type Food posioning bacteria. It is the most common type of Verocytotoxic Escherichia coli (VTEC).


What are the Symptoms of E. coli?

Symptoms include nausea, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fever, muscle pain and headache. Illness will usually last around one week.


Who is at the most risk of E. coli?

Yung children (under 5) are most commonly affected. Most cases are reported in summer and early autumn and there are higher rates in rural areas and Scotland.


How do you catch E. coli?

E. coli is found in the intestines of animals, particularly cattle. People can catch it by eating contaminated food and by drinking unpasteurized milk or contaminated water. Fruit and vegetables can also be contaminated. It can be caught during farm visits and by person-to-person spread due to poor hygiene within families or institutions, especially where young children are present.


How is E. Coli diagnosed?

E. COli is diagnosed by culture and examination of a stool sample. The bacterica is then confirmed by laboratory tests.


How to treat E. coli?

Most people get better one their own within two weeks. Extra fluids are important, especially if person has diarrhoea. Be particularly careful with babies, children, pregnant women and the elderly. Anti-diarrhoeal agents are not recommended. If you develop complications, you should seach help from your GP.


When can you go back to work/school?

The following groups of people should remain at home until two consecutive negative stool samples have been taken at least 48 hours apart:

  • Staff working in the food and catering industries
  • Staff of healthcare facilities. Especially those looking after or serving food to infants or the elderly
  • Children aged less than five years old who attend nurseries or playgroups.
  • Older children or adults who find it difficult to implement good standards of personal hygiene eg. those with learning disabilities or special needs, or in situations where hygienic arrangements are unreliable.


How long am I infectious for?

Adults are usually infectious for up to one week and children for up to three weeks after the symptoms have resolved.


How E. Coli be prevented?

  • Hand washing is the most vital part of infection control. Wash hands thoroughly with hot soapy water before eating and preparing food, after handling raw foods, after using or cleaning chemicals, handling soiled items or having contact with animals or the soil. Once washed dry your hands thoroughly.
  • Keep raw meat separate from cooked food and ready-to-eat food at all times. Never store raw meat above other food in the fridge.
  • Meat should be cooked thoroughly, until the juices run clear and it is brown on the inside.
  • Wash utensils, chopping boards and surfaces thoroughly with hot water and washing up liquid after dealing with raw meat to avoid cross-contamination of ready-to-eat foods.
  • Wash all fruit and vegetables in running water.
  • Avoid unpasteurized milk and juice.
  • Only drink treated water. Avoid swallowing recreational water.


How to prevent infecting other with E. coli?

  • Don’t prepare or handle food for other people until you have been symptom-free for 48 hours.
  • If cleaning up diarrhoea or vomit, wash the surface with hot soapy water, before rinsing and drying. Use paper towels or disposable cloths should be used for cleaning.
  • Clean toilet bowls and seats, flush handles, door handles and taps at least daily with a household cleaner.
  • Wear rubber gloves when cleaning the toilet, cleaning up vomit or diarrhoea and loading the washing machine with soiled clothing.
  • Do not share any towels, including hand towels, with other members of the family.



E.Coli and many other topics are covered in our Food Safety Level Two training. Click here to find out more.

If you have any questions that aren’t answered here why not send us an email via our contact page, we will try and find out the answer and get back to you.



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