UK ‘owes it to Mason Jones’ to take E.coli seriously, warns expert

Source of Article:  http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/cardiff-news/2008/09/03/uk-owes-it-to-mason-jones-to-take-e-coli-seriously-warns-expert-91466-21665005/

BRITAIN’S leading E.coli expert has said the UK “owes it to Mason Jones” to do more to prevent deadly outbreaks of food poisoning.

Professor Hugh Pennington, who is leading the inquiry into the 2005 South Wales Valleys outbreak, will tell a major conference that the country has still not learned the lessons of the 1996 Wishaw outbreak in North Lanarkshire.

In a talk called Groundhog Day Again, he will tell world food safety experts tomorrow that there were strong similarities between the South Wales outbreak, which killed five-year-old Deri schoolboy Mason and the UK’s largest outbreak, which killed 17 people in 1996.

Prof Pennington told the Echo: “We have been quite good at learning lessons from outbreaks of infectious diseases but also very good at forgetting them. In the UK we seem to have a rather iffy track record on E.coli O157. We are still not giving it the priority that it deserves because prevention is absolutely essential.

“We owe it to people like Mason Jones to do our utmost to stop it.”

The 2005 South Wales Valleys E.coli O157 outbreak affected more than 150 people across Bridgend, Caerphilly, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil.

The source was traced to the John Tudor & Son meat plant in Bridgend, which supplied hundreds of schools in the Valleys with cooked meats.

Owner William Tudor was sentenced to 12 months in jail in 2007 after admitting breaching food hygiene rules and supplying contaminated meats to schools.

The ongoing E.coli inquiry has heard there was a serious risk of cross contamination between raw and cooked meats because just one vacuum packer was in use at Tudor’s factory in Bridgend Industrial Estate.

The 1996 Wishaw outbreak was traced to cross contamination of meat sold by award-winning butcher John Barr – he used the same knives for raw and cooked meats.

Prof Pennington, who will give his talk at the University of Aberdeen, said: “The similarities are really quite strong.

“Unless we have top-rate food safety systems in place in all businesses handling products that could be infected with E.coli, we will still have these outbreaks.”

 

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