A new blueprint for tackling the killer bug E.coli O157 was presented by the E.coli task Force yesterday.

The Task Force on E.coli O157 completed its report last week and its chairman, Professor Bill Reilly, today presented its findings to Health Minister Susan Deacon, who appointed the Task Force last September.

The report makes a number of recommendations including:

  • integrated surveillance of human, food, animal and environmental sources of E.coli O157;

  • a wide programme of information and support to patients, carers and families;

  • action by farmers to protect their families, especially children, from cross-contamination (for example, keeping working clothes separate from the home and vehicles and keeping farm animals and working dogs separate from home and vehicles);

  • an awareness-raising campaign among farmers and contractors on waste storage, treatment and application for farmers and contractors of slurries, manures etc;

  • keeping farm animals off the fields for the three weeks prior to use for recreational purposes (for example, camping) and keeping farm animals off fields during recreational use;

  • making core advice available on open farm visits;

  • an education programme on the correct handling of raw salad and vegetables;

  • improving labelling and traceability of cheeses, salads and vegetables;

  • actions to better protect private water supplies.

The report comes hot on the heels of another major E.coli O157 outbreak in Scotland, this time affecting 15 members of a girl guide group on a camping trip near Inverclyde.

Professor Reilly said:

“The people who took part in the Task Force were well informed and, in many respects, experts. The input from the patient support groups was particularly valuable. Our process has shared a huge amount of information and has, in reality, already begun the process of dissemination as each Task Force member has taken our message back to his or her own organisation or into the community.

“The real challenge now is to get the message to the rest of the population. In most aspects of our study we advocate either education or other awareness-raising exercises to promote the message. We look to the Minister to put the recommendations into practice.”

Welcoming the report, Ms Deacon said:

“Scotland has an unenviable record of E coli O157 infection and it is good to see that the Task Force has reached practical conclusions in such a short space of time. This report is written in my kind of language – it is straightforward and gets the message across. It also makes clear that E.coli O157 touches on a range of areas: farming, environmental issues, education and food. The ‘burger bug’ theory is no longer valid.

“The Task Force has consulted widely within the community, within Government and across the UK to assemble the Task Force and to take a huge amount of evidence. This is joined-up Government in its truest sense.

“For our part, the Scottish Executive and the Food Standards Agency will now actively consider how best the recommendations can be taken forward.”

The Report is published today and has been simultaneously placed on both the Task Force’s own website (www.foodstandards.gov.uk/scotland/e.coli.htm) and that of the Scottish Executive

The Scottish Executive and the Food Standards Agency are now committed to taking forward the recommendations within a series of separate but inter-related action plans. Arrangements have been made to ensure that the benefits of this mainly Scottish exercise can be applied as appropriate in other parts of the UK.


  1. The establishment of the Task Force was announced in FSA Press Release number 25/00 dated 25 September 2000.

  1. The Interim Report to the Health Minister and the accompanying Interim Guidance was announced in FSA Press Release number 12/01 dated 22 February 2001.

  1. The evidence received at meetings of the Task Force is published on the Task Force website. References of formally published and peer-assessed work are given in Annex 13 to the Report together with acknowledgements of all those who provided evidence at the meetings.

For further information contact Louise Bisset on 01224 285127 or 07699 782183.