March 16, 2009 Monday
First Edition

NEWS; Pg. 7

1026 words

E. coli victim's mum calls for 'zero tolerance' towards rogue butchers ;
Unannounced inspections of meat premises are demanded butchers

Source of Article:  http://www.meatpoultry.com/news/newsfinder.asp?e=INSERT_EMAIL&Action=UserDisplayFullDocument&orgId=604&docId=l:941290747&topicId=14427&start=7&topics=single

Alford

A MOTHER whose five-year-old son died of food poisoning has called for a crackdown on butchers who flout hygiene rules.

Sharon Mills, whose son Mason Jones died after contracting E.coli O157, wants health inspectors to adopt a "zero tolerance" approach and immediately shut down what she termed "rogue traders dicing with death".

Ms Mills spoke to the Western Mail ahead of the publication on Thursday of a report into the 2005 E.coli O157 outbreak. The outbreak not only killed her son but struck down more than 150 other people - mostly children - leaving some with health problems for the rest of their lives.

The report's author, Professor Hugh Pennington, is expected to make a series of hard-hitting recommendations designed to prevent another tragedy.

He has spent more than a year gathering evidence, which included listening to the testimonies of health inspectors, hygiene experts and affected families during a six-week public inquiry held in Cardiff Bay 12 months ago.

During the hearings he heard how the man who distributed contaminated meat to 42 schools in Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Merthyr Tydfil and Caerphilly - Bridgend butcher William Tudor - was allowed to continue trading by health inspectors who were aware of serious hygiene failures.

Bridgend council health inspector Angela Coles visited Tudor's premises four times in the run-up to the outbreak, but each visit was pre-arranged. Although she was aware of the risk of cross-contamination and various problems which caused her to issue 12 improvement notices, she allowed him to continue trading.

Professor Pennington also heard how Tudor, 56, cut corners to save money and sanctioned the use of detergent for cleaning only when a pre-arranged health inspection was due.

Ms Mills, 34, from Deri, near Bargoed, said: "I would like to see unannounced inspections, with no announced inspections at all because I think that defeats the purpose.

"There should be zero tolerance of rogue traders like Tudor.

"Health inspectors should not give people so many chances.

Tudor fobbed them off so many times.

"Some meat producers could be dicing with death and they shouldn't be given a second chance or allowed a few weeks to make things better because it can have a devastating effect. The inspectors should shut them down until they get it right."

Ms Mills, also mum to Chandler, 11, and Cavan, four, said she hopes Professor Pennington will also recommend a change in the law to force butchers to have entirely separate areas for the processing of raw and cooked meat with separate sets of equipment for each.

The source of the 2005 outbreak was traced back to a single vacuum-packing machine which Tudor used for both raw and cooked meats.

Angela Coles allowed Tudor to continue using the machine because she said it did not break the law and accepted his assurances that it was being cleaned properly.

"I would also like to see better training for GPs and hospitals, so they become more aware of the bacterium and more aware of the signs of infection so they can hospitalise people as soon as possible," said Ms Mills, who works as a community warden for Caerphilly council.

"There has got to be a time when the talking stops and the action starts and this has got to be the point.

"My little boy is lying in a cemetery. He died for nothing, so some good has got to come out of it. We also need to be looking at the health inspectors themselves and asking if they have the right training and if they are the right people to do the job. Are they strong enough to stand up to the people who break the rules?"

Ms Mills said since her son's death at Bristol Children's Hospital four years ago, her grief had turned to anger.

"It's bad enough, standing by a sick child's bed and knowing there's nothing you can do to help ease their pain.

"But the worst thing is knowing that there was something other people could have done to stop this happening in the first place.

"I think there's a definite risk of another outbreak if the recommendations that Professor Pennington makes are not imposed.

"I never thought it would happen to my child, but it did. I tried to protect Mason from everything. I taught him road safety and everything I could. I never knew E.coli could come into his life."

Diary of the deadly progress of E.coli

2005

September 6: Bridgend butcher William Tudor begins delivering cooked meat to schools across the counties of Bridgend, Caerphilly, Merthyr and Rhondda Cynon Taf

September 16: First suspected E.coli O157 cases reported

September 19: Environmental health officers visit Tudor's premises

September 20: Bridgend council shuts him down

September 21: Mason Jones, five, sent home from school suffering from a headache

September 23: Suspecting Mason had E.coli O157 like older brother Chandler, mum Sharon Mills calls the E.coli hotline, but there was no answer

September 25: Doctors refused a house call for Mason, even though he had been confirmed as having E.coli. He was taken to a hospital out-of-hours call centre where a doctor prescribed Calpol and Ibuprofen

October 4: Mason Jones dies at Bristol Children's Hospital of renal failure caused by toxins released by E.coli O157 bacterium

December 20: Outbreak officially declared over. A total of 157 people, most of them children, had been affected. Many of the children also suffered renal failure like Mason

2006

February: William Tudor shuts his firm after losing the contract to provide schools with meat

2007

January: Tudor formally charged with supplying meat contaminated with E.coli O157

February: Crown Prosecution Service announce they will not be charging Tudor with manslaughter

July 20: Tudor admits six charges of supplying contaminated meat

August 3: Tudor enters seventh guilty plea to charge of failing to protect food against the risk of contamination

September 7: Tudor jailed for 12 months

December: Tudor released early from prison

2008

February 12: The public inquiry into the E.coli outbreak - Wales' first public inquiry - begins, chaired by expert Professor Hugh Pennington

2009

March 19: Publication of Professor Pennington's report.

ANGER: Sharon Mills whose son Mason Jones died after contracting E.coli O157 PICTURE: Peter Bolter
TRAGEDY: Mason Jones

March 16, 2009

 

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