Using a sample of 949 Scottish farms with finishing cattle, the spatial distribution of Escherichia coli O157-positive farms was investigated using disease mapping models. The overall prevalence of E. coli O157-positive farms was estimated as 22%. The regions used in this study were the 16 postcode areas of Scotland. For each region, the posterior relative risk (RR) was estimated as a model-based alternative to the saturated standardized morbidity ratio (SMR), i.e., the ratio between observed and expected cases in a region. Three Bayesian hierarchical models with generalized linear modeling of the area-specific risks were used to estimate the posterior relative risk of E. coli O157-positive farms in the postcode areas: a random-effects model incorporating only spatially uncorrelated heterogeneity; a model incorporating both spatially correlated and uncorrelated heterogeneity; and a pseudo-mixture model with unstructured correlation and a weighted mix of two variance components representing the spatial correlation and a jump structure. None of the models identified any areas with a significant increase or decrease in risk. The deviance information criteria slightly favored the simplest model (RR range: 0.92-1.09). However, this model appeared to smooth out more of the variation in the RR compared to the pseudo-mixture model, which gave a more informative pattern of the posterior relative risks (range: 0.81-1.22). (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.