Escherichia coli O157:H7 is a serious pathogen causing haemorrhagic colitis. It has been responsible for several large-scale outbreaks in recent years. E. coli O157:H7 is able to survive in a range of environments, under various conditions. The risk of infection from contaminated surfaces is recognised, especially due to the low infectious dose required. In this study, a high concentration (10(7) cells) of E. coli O157 was placed onto different metals and survival time measured. Results showed E. coli O157 to survive for over 28 days at both refrigeration and room temperatures on stainless steel. Copper, in contrast, has strong antibacterial properties (no bacteria can be recovered after only 90 min exposure at 20 degrees C, increasing to 270 min at 4 degrees C) but its poor corrosion resistance and durability make it unsuitable for use as a surface material. Other copper-containing alloys, such as copper nickels and copper silvers, have improved durability and anticorrosion properties and greatly reduce bacterial survival times at these two temperatures (after 120 min at 20 degrees C and 360 min at 4 degrees C, no E. coli could be detected on a copper nickel with a 73% copper content). Use of a surface material with antibacterial properties could aid in preventing cross-contamination events in food processing and domestic environments, if standard hygiene measures fail.