On Friday, 22 November 1996, the microbiologist at a hospital in Lanarkshire, Scotland, identified presumptive Escherichia coli O157 in faecal specimens submitted by three patients with bloody diarrhoea, and confirmed its presence in one. Over the next 6 h, 12 more potential cases were identified. Investigations first indicated then confirmed a single food premises as the source of infection. Effective control measures were applied promptly. The outbreak was declared over on 20 January 1997, by which time 512 cases had been identified, and infection with the outbreak strain confirmed in 279. Twenty deaths occurred in cases during the outbreak and there were two more in cases during 1997. Seventeen of these deaths resulted from the outbreak. This paper describes the outbreak's epidemiological investigation, referring to other investigations, and control measures, where appropriate.