Preventing E.coli contamination
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published guidance clarifying the steps that food businesses need to take to control the risk of contamination from the food bug E.coli O157.
This guidance has been developed in response to the serious outbreaks of E.coli O157 in Scotland in 1996 and Wales in 2005, which were attributed to cross-contamination arising from poor handling of food.
Many businesses will already be following the steps contained in the guidance but it is intended to provide reassurance that they are doing everything they can to prevent cross-contamination. Although E.coli is the key focus of this guidance, the measures outlined will also help in the control of other bacteria, such as campylobacter and salmonella.
Some of the key measures highlighted in the guidance to control E.coli are:
- Businesses need to ensure that work areas, surfaces and equipment for raw and ready to eat food are adequately separated, either by physical separation or time separation, and is dependent on what is feasible for the business.
- Identification of separate work areas, surfaces and equipment for raw and ready-to-eat food.
- Separate complex equipment, such as vacuum packing machines, slicers, and mincers should be not used for both raw and ready to eat food during the normal operation of business. They need to be fully dismantled and all surfaces disinfected if a business wants to change the use of the machine from raw to ready to eat foods.
- Other types of complex equipment, such as temperature probes, mixers and weighing scales, may be used for both raw and ready to eat food subject to the business being able to demonstrate that such equipment will be effectively disinfected between uses.
- Hand washing should be carried out using a recognised technique. Anti-bacterial gels must not be used instead of thorough hand washing.
- Disinfectants and sanitisers must meet officially recognised standards and should be used as instructed by the manufacturer.
Our How safe is your food? leaflet outlines the dangers of cross-contamination and poor temperature control of foodstuffs.
Guidance document and factsheets
The full guidance, developed following a public consultation and Professor Hugh Pennington’s report into the 2005 E.coli outbreak, can be found on the FSA's website, along with factsheets for businesses: