E.coli recommendations on UK farms

A recent report has recommended livestock feed additives and cattle vaccines to be investigated for the control of E.coli O157 on UK farms.

The study identified three control strategies shown to reduce the prevalence and/or shedding of E.coli O157 by infected cattle, which were "the use of probiotics in feed, the vaccination of animals, measures for improving biosecurity on farms".

At a national level, the study found that the use of "vaccines or probiotics could be cost-effective".

These approaches have shown promise in the US, but it is unknown whether they could be implemented in UK farming systems.

In a survey of around 500 UK farmers, it was found that there was high awareness of the risk to public health and a recognised responsibility to address the issue.

According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), many are not convinced of the benefits of investing in treatments such as vaccines and probiotics. "However, the responses suggested that improved access to information and evidence for the safety and effectiveness of controls would encourage farmers to take action.

"Farmers who opened their premises to the public were more likely to be willing to pay or to spend time in controlling E.coli O157, and the findings suggested that targeted vaccination to open farms could be a viable option for reducing human exposure to the pathogen," the FSA claimed.

"E.coli O157 is a serious gastrointestinal pathogen which can be transmitted from cattle faeces to humans via the environment or through the food chain," explained the FSA.

The study was co-founded by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and undertaken by the Scottish Agricultural College (now Scotland’s Rural College) in collaboration with the University of Glasgow.

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