If a child poops in the forest, will anyone catch E. coli?

An open-air nursery, or forest kindergarten, sounds sorta cool (in German, Waldkindergarten), where the kids spend their days in the woods instead of a building with walls.

But poop could be a problem.

The Secret Garden Outdoor Nursery in Fife, Scotland, which operates in a woodland setting, had been ordered to use soap and water instead of wipes if staff and children visited a farm or walked across a field containing livestock.

The Scotsman reports the nursery argued that carrying up to ten litres of water into Letham Woods where the children play and learn was impractical and that the threat of catching E coli was being exaggerated.

Last night Cathy Bache, the nursery’s founder, welcomed the victory over what she described as Health Protection Scotland’s (HPS) "very unworkable" hand-washing policy, adding,

"It’s fantastic. We can now continue to operate as a nomadic nursery on our woodland site. If we’d had hand-washing imposed on us it would have made things a lot more difficult."

The potential hygiene issue came to light in July last year after concerns about handwashing were raised at an inspection by the Care Commission which regulates Scotland’s nurseries. The nursery complied with a request to use soap and water before reverting to wipes and gels last December.

A spokesman for the Care Commission, said: "The Secret Garden will now follow a ten-step programme of measures with regard to hand hygiene. The practice and procedures should also be approved by the individual parents of all children attending.

"However, we remain clear that children at the Secret Garden should wash their hands with soap and water whenever possible to maintain good infection prevention."

That’s because sanitizers do not work in the presence of organic material – dirt in a forest – and are ineffective against a number of viruses.