Nine case E.coli outbreak in Plymouth 'linked to crab meat'
Health protection officers are investigating an E. coli outbreak in Plymouth believed to be linked to crab meat.
Environmental health officers and the Health Protection Agency (HPA) launched an inquiry after nine cases were confirmed in the city.
It is believed to be the first reported outbreak of the E.coli O157 strain associated with the consumption of crab.
The investigation is continuing but there is a suspected link with an unapproved crab supplier.
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Investigators revealed they took action after nine cases emerged in August. There have been no further reports of illness linked to crab since.
The South West HPA and Plymouth City Council said in a joint statement: "A wider investigation is still ongoing following on from the outbreak, so we are not in a position to give full details but we suspect a link to an unapproved crab supplier.
"Environmental health officers from the council acted swiftly to identify crab meat as a possible source and removed all potentially affected crab meat from food establishments as a precautionary measure.
"The team worked closely with the SW (North) Health Protection Unit to investigate the cases and ensure that GPs in Plymouth and beyond were aware of the issue, if anyone presented with symptoms."
The team also alerted food outlets in the city about the importance of only buying food or ingredients from approved or registered suppliers.
"Food outlets were told to remove any food that may have come from an unapproved supplier," the statement added.
A study into the outbreak showed a 'statistically significant' association between cases and the consumption of crab meat away from home.
E.coli is the abbreviated name of bacteria called Escherichia coli.
The most common strain associated with human illness is known as E.coli O157, which is often found in the gut of cattle and farm animals.
People become infected by eating infected food, mainly meat, unpasteurised milk and cheese, contact with infected animals such as at farms or animal sanctuaries, or contact with other people who have the illness, through inadequate hand washing after using the toilet and/or before food-handling.
Infection can also be spread by eating unwashed vegetables which may have been infected by manure from cattle, and drinking or swimming in infected water.