Family of UK girl infected with E. coli O157 at farm win settlement

The family of a girl left fighting for her life after contracting E.coli at a children’s petting farm five years ago today said they were finally able to move on after receiving a share of £1 million in compensation.

goat.petting.zooLucy Erskine’s children Niall, Claudia and Evan were among 76 children who fell ill after visiting Godstone Farm in Surrey in 2009. Niall and Evan had mild infections but Claudia, then aged six, suffered acute kidney failure and spent three weeks in hospital.

Now 11, Claudia has recovered but her mother said there remains a possibility she could suffer health complications in future. She will need to be monitored for the rest of her life.

During the family’s visit to the farm the children were encouraged by employees to go into enclosures and pet goats, pigs, chickens and donkeys.

Claudia fell ill a week later and was rushed to the paediatric renal unit at Evelina Children’s Hospital in London, where one third of the ward was taken up by the victims of one of Britain’s biggest ever E.coli outbreaks.

For three weeks she was given dialysis and fed through a tube. She needed three blood transfusions.

In a landmark legal ruling, the owners of Godstone Farm were last month found wholly liable for the cases because the antibacterial hand gels provided were not powerful enough to kill off the virulent O157 strain of bacteria.

Claudia and another nine of the most badly affected children have been awarded payouts in an out-of-court settlement said to total almost £1 million.

The awards, to be paid by the Surrey farm’s insurers, are provisional so the children can seek further compensation should their condition deteriorate. Judge Sir Colin Mackay at London’s High Court approved the settlement as sensible and fair.

Jill Greenfield, solicitor at Fieldfisher, which represented the 10 families, today called for an accreditation scheme for petting farms which she said would “give parents some level of reassurance and allow them to decide whether or not to take their children to a particular farm.”

Best practices for planning events encouraging human-animal interactions


Zoonoses and Public Health

G. Erdozain , K. KuKanich , B. Chapman  and D. Powell

Educational events encouraging human–animal interaction include the risk of zoonotic disease transmission. It is estimated that 14% of all disease in the US caused by Campylobacter spp., Cryptosporidium spp., Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157, non-O157 STECs, Listeria monocytogenes, nontyphoidal Salmonella enterica and Yersinia enterocolitica were attributable to animal contact. This article reviews best practices for organizing events where human–animal interactions are encouraged, with the objective of lowering the risk of zoonotic disease transmission.


Checklist Final 3_Page_1


Handwashing is never enough and it’s a disaster these things keep happening: UK children win compensation after Godstone Farm E. coli outbreak

Three children have been left with chronic kidney disease after being exposed to E. coli O157 at the east Surrey farm in 2009.

The youngsters were among more than 90 children struck down by the E.coli O157 bacteria after visiting the petting zoo and stroking animals there in August and September 2009.

handwash.UK.petting.zoo.09All of the children developed haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and three now have chronic kidney disease.

At London’s High Court on Thursday, Judge Colin Mackay QC said: “These children have all had painful and frightening experiences.

“I cannot think of anything more ghastly than for such young children to go through these procedures.

“However, the outcomes have been remarkable, no doubt due to the courage of the children and their parents.”

“All of the children have a life-long risk – albeit small in some cases – of renal failure in the future, which will require monitoring.”

Eight youngsters needed dialysis after the bug destroyed their red blood cells.

A statement from the parents read: “In the Autumn of 2009, very young children and their families endured for many what was the most frightening and darkest period of their lives following the E. coli O157 outbreak at Godstone Farm.

Of those infected with this strain of E. coli, many went on to develop Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome and suffered acute renal failure as a result. 

The weeks that followed were a living nightmare for all. The children were critically ill, frightened and extremely upset by the medical treatment required. 

Some of the children have been left with significant damage to both kidneys, high blood pressure and a number of other health related issues.

All of this was caused by a summer’s day out to Godstone Farm. As parents, they did not know enough about E. coli O157 at that time to understand the risks. 

“Godstone Farm, on the other hand, should have been aware of the risks that E. coli O157 posed to human health; but in our view, and that of the Griffin Inquiry, they failed to implement the necessary safety measures to protect these children.

During the visit to Godstone Farm, these children washed their hands thoroughly and used antibacterial hand gel. Yet this is a dangerous bacteria, the consequences of which are now all too apparent. 

We now know that hand washing cannot be relied upon as a complete safeguard if E coli O157 is present.

The parents would like to thank the amazing medical teams that helped to save their children’s lives and to their wonderful family and friends for their love and support in what are difficult circumstances.”

The children’s lawyers, Field Fisher Waterhouse, revealed outside court that they had so far settled 35 cases arising from the outbreak for a total of more than £1m.

Solicitor Jill Greenfield said: “The horror of what these children and their families have been through is difficult for anyone to describe.

“How do you explain to a scared, young child why they are having to undergo painful treatments? Every parent only ever wants to do the best for the child.

“I can see that a day out to a farm is for many seen as a chance to get back to nature, from the rigours of the city and for children to meet and touch animals.

“But for a day to end like this is utterly devastating.

“What angers parents even more is the fact that the farm remained open over the August bank holiday weekend, at a time when where was a level of knowledge that E.coli O157 was around.

“How tragic that these young children were allowed to skip into this farm completely oblivious to the danger that awaited.”

Best practices for planning events encouraging human-animal interactions


Zoonoses and Public Health DOI: 10.1111/zph.12117

G. Erdozain , K. KuKanich , B. Chapman  and D. Powell


Zoonoses and Public Health

G. Erdozain , K. KuKanich , B. Chapman  and D. Powell

Educational events encouraging human–animal interaction include the risk of zoonotic disease transmission. ‘It is estimated that 14% of all disease in the USA caused by Campylobacter spp., Cryptosporidium spp., Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157, non-O157 STECs, Listeria monocytogenes, nontyphoidal Salmonella enterica and Yersinia enterocolitica were attributable to animal contact. This article reviews best practices for organizing events where human–animal interactions are encouraged, with the objective of lowering the risk of zoonotic disease transmission.

Owner of UK E. coli petting zoo being sued for 2009 outbreak tries to blame health-types; judge says no

In August and September 2009, an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 at Godstone Petting Farm located near Surrey in the U.K. resulted in 93 illnesses, including 76 children less than 10-years-old. Seventeen of these cases, all children, suffered the most severe complications of E. coli O157:H7 infection, hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), requiring intensive hospital care, and eight of these children underwent dialysis and may face long-term kidney damage.

An investigation into the outbreak revealed the main animal barn of the farm as the source of E. coli, with a high proportion of fecal samples from animals in this e.coli.twins.petting.zoo.09barn testing positive for E. coli. There was also evidence of wider environmental contamination, indicating risk of infection from both indirect and direct contact with animals.

Twin brothers Aaron and Todd Furnell were aged two when they visited Godstone Farm with mother Tracy Mock over the August bank holiday weekend in 2009.

They were struck down with E. coli, along with their older sister and more than 90 other people, and were in hospital for weeks having dialysis after suffering from kidney failure.

Their mother, from Paddock Wood in Kent, is suing farm owner Jacqueline Flaherty for damages.

get Surrey reports Ms Flaherty tried to shift blame onto the HPA and district council saying they were aware of the outbreak before her and did not do enough to protect visitors.

But judge Mr Justice Turner said Ms Flaherty had “no reasonable grounds” for her argument and ruled that the authorities did not owe a “blanket duty of care” to the farm’s visitors even if they had been exposed to a risk of injury.

He said: “Mere knowledge on their part of an outbreak or potential outbreak from the farm falls far short of giving rise to an assumption of responsibility, whatever Ms Flaherty may or may not have known.

“Ms Flaherty, in contrast, owed an incontrovertible private law duty to her visitors to take reasonable steps to keep them reasonably safe.”

The twins’ damages claims against Ms Flaherty will now proceed to a full trial unless any settlement terms are agreed before then.

A table of petting zoo outbreaks is available at

Handwashing is never enough: findings from E. coli O157 2009 outbreak in UK published

In the fall of 2009, an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak at Godstone Petting Farm in the U.K resulted in 93 illnesses – primarily little kids.

An initial report by Professor George Griffin found that it could have been avoided if visitors had been kept away from animal feces, and was made worse by the slow reaction of health authorities before the petting farm in Surrey was closed.

Eight of the children infected required dialysis and some have been left with permanent kidney damage. At one point during the outbreak victims were occupying all the children’s acute renal support services in London.

As part of the response, U.K. health types recommended handwashing stations with soap and water only (no wipes or sanitizers).

But while some studies suggest inadequate handwashing facilities may have contributed to disease outbreaks, or washing hands was protective against illness, others suggest bugs like E. coli O157 may be aerosolized and inhaled, thus not prevented with handwashing.

Add the latest paper on the 2009 outbreak to the list: a bunch of U.K. researchers conclude that in the Godstone outbreak, “handwashing conferred no demonstrable protective effect.

“Moreover, from the findings of many previous published studies, it must be assumed that all petting or open farms are potentially high-risk environments for the acquisition of VTEC O157 infection.”

A table of petting zoo outbreaks is available at

Large outbreak of verocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli O157 infection in visitors to a petting farm in South East England, 2009
Epidemiology and Infection August 2012 140 : pp 1400-1413
C. Ihekweazu, K. Carroll, B. Adak, G. Smith, G. C. Pritchard, I. A. Gillespie, N. Q. Verlander, L. Harvey-Vince, M. Reacher, O. Edeghere, B. Sultan, R. Cooper, G. Morgan, P. T. N. Kinross, N. S. Boxall, A. Iversen and G. Bickler’
In the summer of 2009, an outbreak of verocytotoxigenic Escherichia coli O157 (VTEC O157) was identified in visitors to a large petting farm in South East England. The peak attack rate was 6/1000 visitors, and highest in those aged <2 years (16/1000). We conducted a case-control study with associated microbiological investigations, on human, animal and environmental samples. We identified 93 cases; 65 primary, 13 secondary and 15 asymptomatic. Cases were more likely to have visited a specific barn, stayed for prolonged periods and be infrequent farm visitors. The causative organism was identified as VTEC O157 PT21/28 with the same VNTR profile as that isolated in faecal specimens from farm animals and the physical environment, mostly in the same barn. Contact with farm livestock, especially ruminants, should be urgently reviewed at the earliest suspicion of a farm-related VTEC O157 outbreak and appropriate risk management procedures implemented without delay.

E. coli from petting farm left my girl like a bag of bones

The mother of a girl who contracted E. coli O157 after visiting Godstone petting farm in Surrey told the London Evening Standard how her daughter nearly died from kidney failure.

Six-year-old Faye Jones (right) had to undergo dialysis as well as two blood transfusions and could face long-term organ damage because she visited the petting farm.

Her mother Wendy hit out at health officials for not closing the farm sooner, then unfairly blaming parents for ignoring handwashing notices, adding,

"This has affected our whole family. Faye was like a bag of bones – her body went into shock from the toxins. I hope that no other child ever has to endure what mine did and that lessons have been learned. I’m angry that the farm didn’t act soon enough and that there was not enough of a concern with the Health Protection Agency to shut it. They said parents were neglectful at not getting children to wash their hands. But that’s not true."

Faye is among 27 children set to receive what may amount to millions in compensation. This week the farm’s owners revealed they would not contest a legal action brought on behalf of the children and one adult after the outbreak in August 2009.

A total of 93 people developed the potentially fatal bug and 76 of those taken ill were children under 10.

Mrs Jones, 35, revealed that Faye was at first wrongly diagnosed with dysentery when she began passing blood a week after visiting the farm.

"Her grandparents, who took her, went through hell blaming themselves. I’m not a parent to wrap a child in cotton wool but I won’t take her to a farm again without gloves. … Faye’s grandmother is fastidious about hand-washing and she always carries gel. There was just one sign about washing. The real reason this happened was the children were near straw covered in animal feces."

UK petting farm accepts liability in E. coli outbreak

The petting farm at the center of an E.c oli O157 outbreak that sickened 93 in Aug. 2009 and left several children seriously ill will not be disputing liability in the legal case against it, lawyers have said.

Seventy-six of those taken ill after visiting Godstone Farm, near Redhill, Surrey were children under the age of 10.

Law firm Field Fisher Waterhouse, which is representing 27 children affected by the outbreak, said it had received confirmation from Godstone Farm that it would not be disputing liability in the case.

Two of those worst affected were twins Todd and Aaron Furnell (right, exactly as shown) now aged three, who became infected with the bug while on a school trip to the farm. They suffered kidney failure and spent several weeks in hospital, leaving Todd with 80% kidney function and Aaron with just 64%, the law firm said.

A report released in June last year found there were numerous failings in the way the farm handled the outbreak, the largest linked to an open farm in the UK, and in its appreciation of the risk associated with E.coli O157.