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Three hospital patients die after listeria outbreak linked to pre-packed sandwiches in UK

Six seriously ill hospital patients in England were found to have cases of the listeria infection.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/Moving Moment

THREE HOSPITAL PATIENTS have died following an outbreak of listeria linked to pre-packed sandwiches in the UK. 

Sandwiches and salads linked to the cases have been withdrawn and the supplier, The Good Food Chain, has voluntarily ceased production while the investigation continues, Public Health England (PHE) said in a statement. 

This business had been supplied with meat produced by North Country Cooked Meats with has produced a positive test result for the outbreak strain of listeria. 

North Country Cooked Meats and North Country Quality Foods, who they distribute through, have also voluntarily ceased production.

Six seriously ill hospital patients in England were found to have cases of the listeria infection. Three of these patients have died. 

Currently, there are no cases in Scotland or Wales. 

The sandwiches and salads affected are no longer being produced while investigations continue and the affected products were withdrawn from hospitals when the links to the listeria infections were first identified.

Listeriosis 

Listeriosis is a rare infection and for most people it goes unnoticed or there are mild symptoms of gastroenteritis that usually last a short time without the need for treatment.

The time between exposure to the organism and the development of the illness can be up to 70 days.

Occasionally, however, a more serious infection develops and spreads to the bloodstream or brain. This can happen in people who have serious underlying health conditions and can also occur in pregnant women.

The best way to prevent listeriosis is to practice good food hygiene. PHE advises that chilled food should be put in a fridge or other suitable equipment as soon as it is delivered. Food that is required to be chilled is not permitted to be left out of temperature control for long periods of time.

PHE typically sees an average of 166 annual cases of listeriosis in England and Wales. 

‘We have taken action’

PHE, the Food Standards Agency (FSA), Public Health Wales (PHW), Food Standards Scotland (FSS), Health Protection Scotland (HPS) and a number of local authorities are currently investigating the source of the listeria infections.

“Our thoughts are with the families of those patients who have died. We, along with the FSA, colleagues in local authorities and the NHS have worked quickly to determine the likely cause of this outbreak and taken action to reduce the risk to the public’s health,” Dr Nick Phin, deputy director at PHE’s National Infection Service, said.

Phin added that to date, there have been no associated cases identified outside healthcare organisations, and any risk to the public is low.

Dr Colin Sullivan, FSA chief operating officer said: 

Our sympathies are with the families of those patients who have tragically passed away.

“We have taken action along with local authorities to minimise the risk based on the evidence so far. The FSA will continue to investigate how the outbreak occurred and if further steps are required to protect vulnerable groups.”

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