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E coli O157: Control of Cross-contamination

Guidance for Food Businesses

The Food Standards Agency has issued guidance for food businesses to clarify the steps needed to control the risk of food becoming contaminated by E.coli O157. This guidance has been developed in response to the serious outbreaks of E.coli O157 in Scotland in 1996 and Wales in 2005, which were attributed to cross-contamination arising from poor handling of food.

Although E.coli is the key focus of this guidance, the measures outlined will also help in the control of other bacteria, such as campylobacter and salmonella.

Key control measures

Some of the key measures highlighted in the guidance to control E.coli are:

  • Identification of separate work areas, surfaces and equipment for raw and ready-to-eat food.
  • Use of separate complex equipment, such as vacuum-packing machines, slicers, and mincers for raw and ready-to-eat food.
  • Handwashing should be carried out using a recognised technique. Anti-bacterial gels must not be used instead of thorough handwashing. Download a poster on how to wash your hands properly or visit the Food Standard's Agency Youtube page.
  • Disposable cloths should be used for cleaning wherever possible. Re-usable cloths should be washed on a hot cycle above 82 degrees celcius and allowed to thoroughly air dry.
  • Disinfectants and sanitisers should meet officially recognised British standards and be used as instructed by the manufacturer (A list of products meeting these British Standards can be found at the bottom of the page).
  • Fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly washed before use in order to remove any traces of soil (unless supplied washed/ready to eat)


The Food Standards Agency guidance is available to download from the following links:

Other related guidance: