Concern over rising cases of E.coli from 'nationally distributed food item' | Fieldfisher
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Concern over rising cases of E.coli from 'nationally distributed food item'

Breaking news reports show that around 113 people have become ill with Shiga Toxin producing E.coli (STEC), with numbers expected to rise.

The source of the outbreak remains unknown, but the UK Health Standards Agency has confirmed that the cases are part of a single outbreak likely to be from an as yet unidentified, nationally distributed food item. At least 37 people have been hospitalised with symptoms to date, the youngest aged 2 and the eldest aged 79, although the majority of the infections are understood to be in young adults.

Infection and incubation

Infection with Shiga Toxin producing E.coli (STEC) can occur when people get E. coli O157 bacteria in their mouth. This can happen through consuming food or drink contaminated with the bacteria - including raw or undercooked meat, foods contaminated with STEC from contact with raw meat, faeces from infected animals or faeces from infected people

The incubation period is the time from being exposed to the bacteria to the time that symptoms start. The incubation period for STEC is usually three to four days but has been recorded as anywhere between one and 14 days.

The bacteria is highly infectious and can survive for a long time in the environment. Ingesting ten to 100 bacteria can cause human illness and the infection can spread easily within households and in other settings such as day nurseries, primary schools, nursing homes and hospitals.

Symptoms and testing

The impact of E.coli can be underestimated as, thankfully, most people will make an uneventful recovery. However Shiga Toxin producing E.coli (STEC) can have a broad range of clinical presentations; from no symptoms, through to mild diarrhoea and to severe bloody diarrhoea. In a small number of cases, two serious complications may arise - Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome (HUS) and Thrombotic Thrombocytopaenic Purpura (TTP).

These complications affect the blood, kidneys and brain and can be fatal, particularly in infants, young children and the elderly. The UK Health Security Agency reports that up to 15% of paediatric cases of STEC progress to HUS. HUS is the most common cause of acute renal failure in children below 5 years of age and more than 90% cases of HUS are caused by STEC. Sadly, STEC-HUS associated fatalities, particularly in children, have occurred in recent years.

According to the UK Health Security Agency website guidance: Diagnosis of STEC-HUS is often missed due to lack of appropriate testing. It is important to test a faecal sample – or, if stool is unavailable, a rectal swab (bacterial culture swab or charcoal swab) – to facilitate a rapid diagnosis and identification of children at risk of developing HUS. Swabs or faecal samples should be sent to the local microbiology laboratory labelled as ‘suspected STEC’ or ‘suspected HUS’.

Previous outbreaks

Claire Glasgow and Harvinder Kaur from the Fieldfisher serious injury team are currently representing several victims of STEC from other outbreaks and have previously acted for victims of the 2014 Huntley Country Stores outbreak. Jill Greenfield, head of the serious injury team at Fieldfisher, represented a number of children infected with the bacteria following a significant outbreak at Godstone Farm in 2009, which led to the Griffin Inquiry. The Inquiry report recognised the potential severity of the infection in young children, and the outbreak lead to HUS caused by  STEC becoming a notifiable disease under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 and the Health Protection (Notification) Regulations 2010. 
There are important factors to consider when bringing a claim arising from infection with Shiga Toxin producing E.coli (STEC), including the difficulties and importance of finding the source of the infection and the need to accurately assess the likelihood of any serious long term health complications. Given the current pressures on the National Health Service, the Fieldfisher serious injury team are experienced in arranging private follow up, therapy and support following discharge from hospital.

Read more about our work on similar cases.

Contact us

For further information about E coli O157 claims and personal injury claims, please call Claire Glasgow on 0330 460 6747  or email or call Harvinder Kaur on 03304606762 or email


All enquiries are completely free of charge and we will investigate all funding options for you including no win, no fee.

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