x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Preventing an E coli outbreak a lesson for farmers

Workshop for Abu Dhabi farmers may help avert a deadly epidemic.

Workers unearth potatoes on a farm in Liwa. Farmers are being educated on the dangers of a bacterial epidemic from contamination of their produce.
Workers unearth potatoes on a farm in Liwa. Farmers are being educated on the dangers of a bacterial epidemic from contamination of their produce.

ABU DHABI // Farmers in Abu Dhabi are being taught how to prevent a deadly bacterial epidemic from contaminating their produce.

A workshop was organised last week by the Abu Dhabi Farmers' Services Centre after the e-coli outbreak in Germany that has killed 43 and sickened almost 4,000 people since early May.

Local farmers were educated about the danger of the bacteria, how to prevent it from contaminating vegetables and how to adopt "good agriculture practices".

Christopher Hirst, the centre's chief executive, said it was "committed to creating awareness among local farmers about the dangers ofe-coli contamination.

"After the recent outbreak of e-colibacteria in Germany, we want to make sure that nothing similar happens in Abu Dhabi," he added. "When you have a big international scare like thee-colioutbreak, it's a good opportunity to draw people's attention on ways to improve their agricultural practices."

Farmers were taught about the origins of e-coli, which is found in human and animal faeces. If fruit or vegetables were to become contaminated with the bacteria, then that means the produce may have come in direct contact with the faeces, was handled by farm staff who have not washed their hands properly, or been in contact with water that contained the bacteria.

Contamination by e-coli is easily prevented if the proper precautions are taken, Mr Hirst said.

The good agricultural practices code "is designed to reduce the risks of bacterial contamination," he said, adding that the Farmers' Services Centre "wants to guarantee that local farmers are as knowledgeable as possible".

Preventive measures include never leaving produce on the ground in contact with untreated animal manure or close enough to the ground that it might get splashed.

All farms must also provide clean, functioning toilets and hand washing facilities for workers, who must wash their hands regularly with clean water and soap.

"Training staff in the correct hygienic practices when handling fresh produce is imperative," he said.

hkhalaf@thenational.ae