Staffordshire firm ceases production after three die in listeria outbreak

Written by on June 7, 2019

A firm has ceased production at its North Staffordshire factory as part of an investigation into the deaths of three people who ate sandwiches which are being linked to a listeria outbreak.

Stone -based firm The Good Chain has voluntarily closed its production facility while an investigation into the outbreak continues – with sandwiches and salads produced by the firm withdrawn from shelves.

A total of six seriously ill patients in hospitals in England were infected – with three of them, at hospitals in Manchester and Liverpool, dying – reports Stoke-on-Trent Live .

All the sandwiches and salads believed to be affected are no longer being produced, Public Health England confirmed in a statement.

Dr Nick Phin, Deputy Director at the National Infection Service at PHE said: “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.

“To date, there have been no associated cases identified outside healthcare organisations, and any risk to the public is low.”

An investigation is now being carried out by Public Health England (PHE), The Food Standards Agency (FSA), Public Health Wales (PHW), Food Standards Scotland (FSS), Health Protection Scotland (HPS) and a number of local authorities.

Dr Colin Sullivan, Chief Operating Officer at the FSA 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.”

The Good Food Chain had been supplied with meat produced by North Country Cooked Meats which subsequently produced a positive test result for an outbreak strain of listeria.  The firm, along with North Country Quality Foods, who they distributed through, have also voluntarily ceased production.

What is listeria?

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 blood stream 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. We advise 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.

Food products are permitted to be out of temperature control for limited periods, providing there is no risk to food safety, to accommodate the practicalities of transport and storage.

 
In a statement The Good Food Chain said: “Following investigations by Public Health England and the Food Standards Agency, the Good Food Chain has confirmed that its production facility in Stone, Staffordshire was cross contaminated by an ingredient from one of its approved meat suppliers.

“Working with its Environmental Health Officer, The Good Food Chain has taken the difficult decision to voluntarily close its production facility to enable it to eradicate the issue and ensure it can continue to supply a safe product to customers and consumers. The business continues to work closely with  Stafford Borough Council  Environmental Health Officers to bring the incident to a swift and satisfactory solution.

“The business has operated in the food industry for almost a quarter of a century and has an excellent reputation for food safety and quality. Its Stone facility is regularly audited and recently renewed its BRC Grade A accreditation and a five star rating from the local environmental health officer as well as holding STS accreditation. On an ongoing basis. The Good Food Chain regularly laboratory tests its supplies, finished products and environment in line with industry guidelines and best practice.

“Food safety and integrity underpin the business, and the ability to give peace of mind to its customers is paramount.

“The business would like to pass on its thoughts to the families of those who have been affected by this outbreak. It would also like to thank all customers, suppliers and staff for their ongoing support at this difficult time.”

Public Health England say listeria infection in healthy people is usually either unnoticed or may cause very mild illness. However, it can have more serious consequences for some people, particularly those with pre-existing health conditions and pregnant women. The health risk to the public remains low and individuals should only seek medical attention if they develop symptoms.


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