The membrane-filter assay, GM1-ELISA, and DNA-DNA hybridization assay, were used to detect enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) in samples of water, weaning food, food preparation surface swabs, fingerprints of mothers, and the fingerprints and stools of children under 5 years of age, in 20 households in a Malaysian village. Weaning food and environmental samples were frequently contaminated by faecal coliforms, including ETEC. The membrane-filter assay detected and enumerated faecal coliforms and LT-ETEC in all types of water and weaning food samples. Highest concentrations of faecal coliforms and LT-ETEC were found in weaning food, followed by well-water, stored water and stored drinking water. The GM1-ELISA detected LT-ETEC in weaning food, food preparation surfaces, fingerprints and stool samples. The DNA-DNA hybridization assay detected a larger proportion of STa2-ETEC than the other toxotypes, either singly or in combination. All the assays in combination detected the presence of ETEC in all types of samples on at least one occasion in each household. It was not possible to classify households as consistently more or less contaminated with ETEC. On individual occasions it was possible to show a significant association of the presence of LT-ETEC between the fingerprints of children and their stools, fingerprints of mothers and children, and weaning food and the stools of the child consuming the food.