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Disease-causing E-coli bacteria detected in flour

Disease-causing E-coli bacteria detected in flour



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Escherichia coli: pathogens detected in flour

Flour is probably one of the foods that can be found in almost every German household. Unfortunately, the natural product can also be a carrier of pathogenic germs. In the past, shigatoxin-forming Escherichia coli (STEC) were repeatedly detected in various flour samples.

Since shigatoxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) was repeatedly detected in flour samples (wheat, spelled and rye) in food monitoring in Germany in 2018, the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) commissioned the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) to to make an opinion on these bacteria in flour. This has now been published.

Evidence from all regions of Germany

As the Lower Saxony State Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (Laves) explains on its website, a nationwide monitoring program (BÜp) was carried out in 2018 for the VTEC contamination of flour from grain factories

According to the information, STEC (= VTEC) was detected in 34 samples from a total of 238 samples (14.3 percent) from wheat, rye and spelled flour. According to the Laves, the positive samples come from all regions of Germany.

Human-to-human transmissions possible

Escherichia (E.) coli are bacteria that occur naturally in the intestines of animals and humans, explains the BfR in the current statement.

If E. coli are detected in food, they are an important indicator of faecal contamination. The bacteria can get into the environment and various animal and plant foods via the faeces or stool. Direct transmissions between animals and humans and from humans to humans are also possible.

Certain E. coli can lead to serious illnesses in animals and humans because they form poisons (toxins). E. coli, which can form shiga toxins, are of particular importance for humans. These are abbreviated as STEC.

STEC that cause disease in humans are known as enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC).

According to the BfR, the consumption of raw biscuit dough plays a role in the infections attributed to STEC in flour. "Although other ways of infection are also possible (poor kitchen hygiene, use of flour as a separating agent), the risk of infection from eating raw biscuit dough as a main source of infection is plausible," write the experts.

Disease can lead to death in individual cases

According to the BfR, the symptoms of infection with STEC are initially gastrointestinal complaints. The possible degrees of severity range from watery to bloody diarrhea.

In adults, an infection can also be asymptomatic. However, the pathogen is eliminated over a period of one to three weeks, rarely over a longer period. During this time, if there is insufficient hygiene, other people can be infected, the Bavarian State Office for Health and Food Safety (LGL) explains on its website.

According to the BfR, hemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) is a particularly serious complication. This is a disease that manifests itself in acute kidney failure, blood coagulation disorders and destruction of the red blood cells and can lead to death in individual cases.

This form of the disease affects particularly sensitive groups of people, such as small children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.

Observe various protective measures

BfR therefore recommends that consumers who want to protect themselves and their families from food infections also observe the following information on flour handling in addition to the already known rules of kitchen hygiene:

  • Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before preparing food and after contact with flour and dry carefully.
  • Avoid contact between flour and food for direct consumption if possible, also use different boards, plates, bowls and mixers or wash off after contact with flour.
  • After contact with flour, clean surfaces and objects thoroughly with detergent and warm water and dry them.
  • Do not consume cake and biscuit dough raw.

As the Federal Institute explains, EHEC / STEC are killed by cooking, roasting and braising. In general, when preparing food in the home by cooking or roasting, it is sufficient for the core of the food to have a temperature of at least 70 degrees Celsius for at least two minutes.

It should be noted that these values ​​do not refer to the use of dry heat (without water) and are also not sufficient for heating dough. In dry flour products (approx. 13 percent water content), STEC are not killed at 70 degrees Celsius.

These germs are also relatively insensitive to acids, cold or dehydration. This means that STEC bacteria cannot be reliably killed even in the freezer.

If flour is mixed with eggs, milk or water to form a dough, STEC bacteria can be killed at core temperatures of 70 ° C for at least two minutes. The necessary heating time can be reduced by higher core temperatures.

According to the experts, there is still a great need for research, so that a final health risk assessment is not yet possible. (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


Video: Escherichia coli (August 2022).