Spanish ‘cucumber’ food poisoning: lessons to be learned

Spanish cucumber food poisoning lessons to be learned

The search for the cause of the E. coli food poisoning outbreak, which has claimed the lives of 29 people in Europe, has caused much tragedy and confusion over the past few months.

On 5th July 2011, the European Commission announced that one batch of fenugreek seeds - a clover-like plant that is a common ingredient in curry - is the most likely link between E.coli outbreaks in Germany and France.

The first cases of E.coli linked to the current outbreak were reported in May 2011 in Germany. By July 2011, the strain had killed 49 people and infected more than 4,200.

No win no fee solicitors Claims Direct can help people who have suffered food poisoning because of the negligence of service providers such as farmers and retailers who stock unsafe food.

It is thought that many people will be making compensation claims resulting from the outbreak – some of them will be consumers making compensation claims, having eaten contaminated food.

Many farmers will also be seeking financial redress for having their livelihood affected by false accusations about the produce they grow.

When news of the outbreak first began to spread (around 25th May), German health officials identified imported Spanish cucumbers as the source, before backtracking a few days later.

It is particularly worrying that whereas E. coli normally affects children, this particular strain has mostly affected adults (70 per cent of whom are women).

Five ways of protecting yourself from E. coli

  • Wash food – E. coli is normally produced through the excreta of animals and if fruit has come into contact with manure it could become contaminated. Peeling fruit can also remove germs. And if you think it’s safe not to bother with running a bag of pre-washed salad under the tap, you would be wrong – food safety experts always advise people to err on the side of the caution.
  • Wash your self – E. coli can be passed from animals to people and person-to-person through hand to mouth. Always ensure you wash your hands after using the bathroom and before handling food to stop bacteria being transferred. Drying your hands is equally important as wet hands transfer bacteria more easily.
  • Storage solutions – storing food in the correct way is vital. A good starting point is to ensure that your fridge is functioning at the optimum temperature of between 0 and 5 degrees centigrade. Keep the lids closed on bottles and jars and always ensure that leftovers are covered.
  • Leftovers advice – a rule of eating refrigerated food within two days is sensible but there are exceptions: rice based dishes are not safe unless eaten within 24 hours.
  • Cook with confidence – undercooked food, especially meat, often equals food poisoning. For rare beef and lamb, make sure the outside is cooked properly – all other meats should have no pink or red in their juices if cooked correctly. If in doubt, over-cook! Many farming communities in the early 1900s even used to cook all their vegetables and fruit (including cucumber) to avoid food poisoning.

Modern society is perhaps re-learning the wisdom of such traditions.