Make announced inspections illegal, demands E. coli group
Source of Article: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2009/04/28/make-announced-inspections-illegal-demands-e-coli-group-91466-23487462/
FOOD hygiene officers should be legally prevented from warning businesses that they are coming to carry out an inspection, according to a campaign group set up following Wales’ largest E.coli outbreak.
While currently considered best practice, unannounced inspections do not happen every time, with some food businesses receiving prior notification of spot checks.
In his report into the 2005 epidemic that struck down more than 150 people, most of them children, across the South Wales Valleys and claimed the life of Mason Jones, aged five, Professor Hugh Pennington found that all of the inspections made at the premises of the butcher responsible in the months before people became ill had been pre-arranged.
This allowed Bridgend-based William Tudor time to clean up and to doctor cleaning records to mislead Bridgend Council’s inspectors.
Prof Pennington has now recommended all inspections, primary and secondary, must be unannounced unless “there are specific and justifiable circumstances or reasons why a pre-arranged visit is necessary”.
But the parents of four of the victims want to go further and Julie Price, Jeanette Thomas and Mason’s mother Sharon Mills, are re-forming an action group in a bid to achieve their aim.
“We want to make it illegal for hygiene inspectors to carry out announced visits of butchers and other places where food is prepared,” said Mrs Price, mother of 13-year-old Garyn (corr), who was left fighting for his life after contracting the food poisoning bug which spread through school dinners.
“We want that set in stone.”
Unannounced inspections are recommended in The Food Law Practice Guidance (Wales). But announced inspections remain lawful and continue to happen.
Prof Pennington’s long-awaited report into the outbreak that affected more than 40 schools in the counties of Caerphilly, Merthyr, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Bridgend, found serious flaws in inspections at every step in the food chain, including the announced visits, contributed to the outbreak.
In making a total of 24 recommendations, he said: “Authorities must come down hard on businesses that present serious risks to health and those that persistently fail to comply with food hygiene and food safety requirements.
“We owe it to the memory of Mason Jones to learn the lessons from this outbreak and to remember them.”
Following the outbreak, the parents and the families of those affected formed a campaign group known as WAGE, Wales Against E.coli.
But its campaign was overtaken by events over the past four years, including the prosecution of Tudor for breaking food hygiene laws and the public inquiry and subsequent report that was published last month.
The new group, which has not yet been named, will be chaired by Mrs Price, of Alexander Court, Caerphilly.
Following an initial meeting with Ms Mills and her family and Mrs Thomas, from Mountain Ash, whose two sons had E.coli, she said: “Actions speak louder than words. A lot of people have made a lot of promises since 2005, but they need to act on them.
“I am not being pessimistic, I am being realistic when I say it will happen again unless there is change.
“There will always be rogue traders who think they can cut corners to save money and by doing so risk people’s health.
“The public is generally very complacent, but we want to keep the E.coli outbreak in people’s minds.”
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