The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has warned of the risks of farm-related verotoxigenic Escherichia coli infection. This comes on foot of a dramatic 118% increase in cases of verotoxigenic E. coli in Ireland, as compared to last year. Provisional figures show 547 cases of verotoxigenic E. coli infection were recorded to date by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, compared with 251 during the same period in 2011. Most of these cases occurred in rural areas and almost half occurred in children under 5 years of age. Most E. coli bacteria are harmless, but some types are extremely harmful and can cause severe stomach pains and bloody diarrhea, and can also progress to cause kidney failure and death in some cases. Young children and infants are particularly at risk from this infection and special attention must be paid to protect their health.

The FSAI is urging farmers to ensure they have robust hygiene practices in place to reduce the risk of infection with this potentially life threatening organism. The FSAI has published a leaflet: “E. coli – How to Reduce the Risk from Your Farm,” offering practical advice and tips to farmers on how to protect people on the farm, including visitors and children, from becoming infected. This advice also applies to open farms and the recreational use of farmland.