The Scottish E.coli O157 Task Force
In September 2000 a core team was appointed by the Minister for Health and Community Care under the joint sponsorship of the Food Standards Agency Scotland (FSA) and the Scottish Executive (SE) Health Department to:
- Review the risk to health of the public in Scotland, and current activities to prevent human infection with E.Coli O157.
- Assess the effectiveness of the present arrangements for co-ordination of action at national and local level.
- Consider what future measures would help protect the public health.
The core team was chaired by Prof. Reilly of the Scottish Centre for Infection and Environmental Health and consisted of experts in the fields of microbiology, veterinary studies, farming, water supply, public health and consumer protection. The core team met regularly and were joined by over a 100 participants from individual subject interests - including HUSH. This included representatives concerned with human health, farming, water/waste, recreation and the food chain.
The findings were presented to Susan Deacon, the Minister for Health and Community Care on Friday 28th June 2002 and released to the public at a meeting of the Food Advisory Council in Aberdeen on Wednesday 4th July 2002. Reports on each of the meetings can be accessed from the foodstandards website at (http://www.food.gov.uk/news/newsarchive/2001/oct/ecolitask) and the final report is available for download here.
The subjects which came under investigation were:
Whilst HUSH supported many of the recommendations, particularly in relation to the need for ongoing research in a number of areas we have registered our disagreement with several issues, including:
- The recommendation (issued in an Interim Report in February) that states animals should be kept off fields for 3 weeks prior to their use for recreational purposes (camping, etc). Three months after an outbreak at a Scout Camp in Aberdeenshire, soil samples still showed traces of E.Coli O157. We therefore feel a three-month lay-off period would be more appropriate.
- The Task Force reiterated ACMSF advice for the cooking of burgers (i.e. they be cooked to an internal temperature of 70�C for 2 minutes and that consumers cook them thoroughly until they were piping hot throughout and the juices run clear). Government funded research at Reading University between 1995 and 1998 showed that some products cannot be cooked to this internal temperature before the outside was burnt. We feel consumers should be made aware of all relevant information.
- HUSH does not agree with the Task Force in relation to the testing of stool samples. We believe that the most sensitive test methods should always be used (currently IMS). The charity believes it is very important to ensure the best possible patient care and also to prevent the spread of the bacterium via cross contamination. Although the charity appreciates that the young and elderly are the most vulnerable to this bacterium, the recent death of a 57 year old woman in Dundee after eating a sandwich with contaminated lettuce proves that it has no respect for age.