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Deadly bug under scrutiny at major food safety conference

The potentially fatal E. coli O157 bug will come under scrutiny at a major food microbiology conference opening in Aberdeen today (Monday September 1).

Professor Hugh PenningtonAlmost 850 delegates from 50 countries - including many leading scientists - are attending Food Micro 2008 which is exploring a huge range of microbiological issues surrounding the safety and quality of food.

One of the key speakers at the University of Aberdeen organised event is Britain's best known food safety expert, Professor Hugh Pennington.

The Emeritus Professor of Bacteriology at the University will ask whether lessons have been learned from the 1996 Lanarkshire E. coli outbreak when 21 elderly people died after eating contaminated meat from a Wishaw butcher.

Professor Pennington chaired the public inquiry into the case which was the world's worst recorded outbreak of E. coli food poisoning.

He is currently chairing the public inquiry into the 2005 E. coli O157 outbreak in Wales which claimed the life of a five-year-old and left 150, mainly schoolchildren, ill. Again contaminated meat supplied by a butcher was to blame.

Professor Hugh Pennington's talk entitled Groundhog Day Again! takes place on Thursday, September 4.

Delegates will also hear of pioneering research taking place at the University of Aberdeen that has found E. coli O157 infections in humans are more like to have come from cattle rather than sheep.

Researchers have used state of the art technology to analyse the DNA of the bug found in humans and compared it with the DNA of E. coli found in cattle and sheep.

Their discovery that human infections are more likely to come from cattle will help inform those trying to combat the E. coli problem which is more prevalent in the North East of Scotland than anywhere else in the world.

Another study from the University of Aberdeen to come under the spotlight is research into campylobacter and the strain that is resistant to antibiotics.

Scientists have found that the anti-resistant strain of that particular bug is more likely to be found in retail chicken than cattle.

Food Micro 2008 - which takes place at Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre from September 1 to 4 - has been organised by Mr Iain Ogden and Dr Norval Strachan at the University of Aberdeen.

Mr Ogden, Senior Research Fellow, said: "Food Micro 2008 is the biggest food microbiology conference that has taken place in Europe. It is a tremendous opportunity for food microbiologists to share the latest thinking on key food safety issues that touch the lives of millions of people all around the world."

Dr Strachan, Senior Lecturer, added: "At the University the Aberdeen we have been pioneering research into the causes of Campylobacter and E. coli O157 which are some of the most important types of bacterial gastrointestinal infection known.

"The results of our research demonstrate the importance of cattle and sheep as the hosts of E. coli O157 and the importance of poultry meat as a source of campylobacter. The conference was awarded to Aberdeen due to the level of research activity at the University and gives the Aberdeen group a tremendous platform to present its work and foster collaboration with like minded international scientists."

Media are welcome to attend Food Micro 2008. Speakers could also do interviews by telephone for any media unable to attend. Please contact Jennifer Phillips to arrange on 01224 273174.


Notes to Editors

Issued by the Communications Team, Office of External Affairs, University of Aberdeen, King's College, Aberdeen. Tel: (01224) 272014.

Issued on: Monday 1st of September 2008

Ref: 231FOODMICRO2008
Contact: Jennifer Phillips

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