Scottish Meat Linked To Ecoli Outbreak

An outbreak of E.coli has been linked to venison produced by a Scottish game company and sold in supermarkets across the UK.

Nine people have been struck down with the same strain of the bug in Scotland - E.coli O157 PT32 - after eating venison products including sausages, steaks and meatballs which were raw when purchased and then cooked at home.

Eight patients are recovering at home and one is being treated in hospital.

Health Protection Scotland (HPS) has now traced the products to Highland Game, which sells venison in a range of supermarkets and also supplies meat to Scottish Slimmers.

The products - Scottish Slimmers venison sausages, Scottish Slimmers venison meatballs, Highland Game grillsteaks and venison steaks with pepper sauce - have use-by dates from September 4 to October 1.

Experts said they ``should not present a risk to health if they are handled and cooked properly''.

Highland Game grillsteaks are also sold in Morrisons and Lidl stories south of the border but Public Health England said it is not aware of any cases linked to the outbreak.

Highland Game, based in Dundee, is working with inspectors but said there is ``no substantiated evidence to support the actual source of the outbreak''.

A statement from Food Standards Scotland (FSS) said: ``Epidemiological investigations led by HPS and Scottish health boards into an outbreak of E.coli O157 have pointed to a link with certain raw venison products produced by a company called Highland Game with use-by dates from September 4 to October 1.

"As these use-by dates have passed, products will no longer be on sale but consumers may have products in their freezers at home. These products should not present a risk to health if they are handled and cooked properly.

"If, however, consumers still have concerns, they should contact Highland Game directly or contact the retailer where they purchased the product.

"Food Standards Scotland are working closely with Highland Game, who have confirmed that they have taken immediate precautionary action.''

Symptoms of E.coli normally include a fever leading to sickness and diarrhoea.

Advice on precautions which can be taken to reduce the risk of infection have been issued, including washing hands after contact with possible sources such as raw food.

Health experts warned that all deer meat should be cooked thoroughly and not be eaten medium or rare.

A Highland Game spokeswoman said: "This is a very rare incident and venison has an excellent track record of safety and standards, and there is no substantiated evidence to support the actual source of the outbreak.

"Our stringent hygiene controls at Highland Game are second to none, however, as with all meats, there can be a risk of contamination somewhere in the food chain.

"As a precaution and in the interests of public health, anyone who has products as specified in the FSS alert should cook them thoroughly.

"These products should not present any risk to public health if they are handled and cooked properly.''

The Scottish Venison Partnership, which represents producers of Scottish venison, said the industry has an ``enviable food health record''.

Chairman Stephen Gibbs said: "We believe this is an isolated, rogue incident in an industry that has an exemplary record in terms of food safety.

"Consumers should have every confidence in continuing to eat venison - but we cannot stress enough that storage and cooking instructions should be carefully followed exactly, as with any other meat product, as well as good personal hygiene in relation to food preparation.''

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