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
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
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
"Health inspectors should not give people so many
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
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
"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
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
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
February: William Tudor shuts his firm after losing the
contract to provide schools with meat
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
February 12: The public inquiry into the E.coli outbreak - Wales' first public inquiry -
begins, chaired by expert Professor Hugh Pennington
March 19: Publication of Professor Pennington's report.