Mixed salad leaves linked to deadly E. coli outbreak

Public health officials are investigating whether mixed salad leaves may be to blame for an outbreak of E. coli that has claimed the lives of two people.

Public Health England (PHE) has advised "a small number of wholesalers" to stop adding some rocket leaves imported from the Mediterranean to their mixed salad bags as a precaution after the two fatalities.

So far 151 people, mainly in the south west of England, have been affected by the outbreak of E. coli O157 that began at the end of June.

Several people taken ill had eaten mixed salad leaves including rocket leaves. Credit: PA

There have been 144 cases in England, six in Wales and one in Scotland. It has not been confirmed where the two deaths occurred.

Investigators would not rule out other food items as a potential cause but identified a common trend among those taken ill.

E. coli O157 can cause a range of symptoms, including mild to bloody diarrhoea and severe abdominal pain, and can be passed on to other people through poor hand washing and poor toilet hygiene.

Public health advice to people amid E.coli outbreak:

  • Remove any loose soil before storing vegetables.

  • Thoroughly wash all vegetables and salads which will be eaten raw unless they have been pre-prepared and are labelled "ready to eat".

  • Wash your hands with soap and water after using the toilet, before and after handling food, and after contact with pets and animals, including farm animals.

  • Supervise young children when they wash their hands.