Flour is a natural product and a valuable foodstuff.
However, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) were detected in multiple flour samples (wheat, spelt and rye) during routine food monitoring in Germany in 2018. Escherichia (E.) coli are bacteria that occur naturally in the intestines of animals and humans and the detection of E. coli in food is a strong indicator of a faecal contamination.
Bacteria from the faeces or stool can be shed into the environment and subsequently contaminate various animal- and plant-based foods. Direct transmission between animals and humans and from humans to humans are also possible. Certain toxin producing variants of E. coli can cause serious diseases in animals and humans.
E. coli variants that can form Shiga toxins are of particular importance for humans. These are abbreviated as STEC. STEC, which cause diseases in humans, are referred to as entero-hemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC). The symptoms of an infection with STEC are initially gastrointestinal.
The possible severity of the disease ranges from watery to bloody diarrhea. In adults, the course of the disease can also proceed without symptoms. A particularly severe complication is the hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). HUS is a disease that manifests 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 young chil-dren.