The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has recently pointed out that the E. coli outbreak in the UK in early 2011 was apparently a consequence of the way in which leeks and potatoes were handled --- with soil stuck on them!
As per the HPA, the outbreak of the “unusual” E. coli strain - O157 PT8 - was essentially an upshot of the fact that instead of purchasing washed as well as properly wrapped potatoes and leeks, the vegetables were bought loose and had dirt on them.
Due to the E. coli outbreak, nearly 250 cases of the disease were reported in some parts of England, Scotland, and Wales during the December 2010-July 2011 period. While most of the cases of were mild, almost 74 people had to be hospitalized; and there was one fatal case involving a patient who was already suffering from some underlying health problems.
As compared to people who remained infection-free, there was a 40 times greater chance of an affected person coming from a household in which loose leeks were handled; and a 12 times higher possibility of being from a family that had purchased sacked potatoes.
With Dr Bob Adak – chief of the outbreak control team at HPA – having noted that the vegetables seemingly “carried traces of contaminated soil,” Food Standards Agency’s lead scientist Dr Andrew Wadge said that the E. coli outbreak was “a timely reminder that it is essential to wash all fruits and vegetables before you eat them”!