Reduce the risk of E. coli

Learn about E. coli, how it spreads and what you can do to protect your customers.

What E. coli is

Escherichia coli (E. coli) are common bacteria. These bacteria live in the intestines of warm-blooded animals. 

There are types (also known as strains) of E. coli which can live in the intestines of healthy people and animals. These don’t always cause problems, but some strains can make people ill.

The most important VTEC strain to cause illness in the UK is E. coli O157. This can live in the intestines of healthy cattle, sheep, goats and a range of other species. 

How E. coli spreads

If humans consume anything contaminated by faeces from infected animals, E. coli could infect them.

Infection may result from direct or indirect contact with animals that carry VTEC. Someone could get infected from being in an environment contaminated with animal faeces. This could include farms and places with animals which are open to the public. 

If someone does not wash their hands regularly, they could transfer bacteria from contaminated material to their mouth. 

The infectious dose of VTEC O157 is very low, less than 100 bacterial cells. Infection can spread between family, particularly those who may be caring for infected children. It can also spread easily in settings like children’s nurseries.

How to control the risk of E. coli

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has guidance for food businesses. It includes the steps you need to take to control the risk of food becoming contaminated by E. coli O157. 

It also covers what businesses should do to protect their customers.

Find information about how to control cross contamination from the FSA.

Download guidance about E. coli.

View the list of disinfectants which meet the requirements of British Standards BS EN 1276 or BS EN 13697, to disinfect food contact surfaces and equipment.

The list is subject to regular updates and may add or remove products at any time.

For more information please phone 01273 292 161 or send an email to