Cryptosporidium and risks in the food & drink industry

12th June 2013

Cryptosporidium is a single celled (protozoan) parasite that can be found in the intestinal tract of many animals, particularly farm animals. If it enters the human body, it can infect the intestines and cause cryptosporidiosis, which causes vomiting and diarrhoea.

Cryptosporidium is usually spread by contact with soil, water or food contaminated with stools containing the parasite. If cryptosporidium gets into a water supply, it could potentially affect a lot of people. In addition to this, evaporated water containing the parasite can still pose a risk; this makes it vital that food and drink manufacturers use AFS Ltd’s filtration system that provides food & drink air filtration systems to clients to ensure that evaporated water containing Cryptosporidium is removed from the air, therefore ensuring cryptosporidium removal in the food & drink industry.


There are up to 6,000 confirmed cases of cryptosporidiosis each year in the UK. The actual number of cases could be higher, as not each case will require a stool sample to be tested for confirmation. Children under 5 years of age, and people with immune systems that are not functioning fully (such as cancer or HIV patients) are most at risk from cryptosporidiosis, although anyone can catch the disease.

Cryptosporidiosis is a gastroenteritis-type disease, whose symptoms include diarrhoea, vomiting, fever and loss of appetite, which can last for up to a month. There are no specific treatments for the disease, as the immune system will eventually counter the parasite.

EU drinking water standards and cryptosporidium

Cryptosporidium is considered to be a water borne pathogen, so is covered by drink water regulations.

Testing for cryptosporidium is a complicated process, and requires the filtering of hundreds of gallons of water, elution, isolating the oocysts (a protective structure that allows the parasite to survive in water or air and travel between hosts), and then study using immunofluorescent microscopy. This initial testing only provides information on the quantity of the parasite found in the water.

Because of how difficult it is to test for, there are no standards for cryptosporidium in EU or national regulations. There is, however, a general requirement that states that no drinking water should contain micro-organisms or parasites at such a concentration that they could cause disease.

This includes cryptosporidium, which can still be a danger if present in the air in evaporated water. This is why food & drink air filtration systems are required, to remove cryptosporidium from air to avoid contaminating production.

Food & drink air filtration systems

Water is the most common cause of contamination in Cryptosporidium cases. It is vital, in the interests of public health and in order to comply with EU regulations, to ensure that water used in the food and drinks manufacturing process does not pose a health hazard. Food & drink air filtration systems remove evaporated water which could contain Cryptosporidium.

Contamination could lead to a high number of cases of Cryptosporidiosis, which would have severe consequences for those responsible. AFS LTD provide food & drink air filtration systems to clients to ensure that evaporated water containing Cryptosporidium is removed from the air, avoiding the risk of contamination.