Listeria outbreak: Health Secretary orders NHS food review after deaths

Listeria outbreak: Health Secretary orders NHS food review after deaths

Urgent steps are being taken after the number of fatalities connected to products from the same supplier rises from three to five.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has ordered a "root and branch" review of NHS food, after two more patient deaths were linked to listeria outbreak.

Mr Hancock said he was "incredibly concerned" after it was confirmed the number of fatalities connected to pre-packaged sandwiches and salads provided by The Good Food Chain had risen from three to five.

PHE said investigations into the outbreak are being carried out in conjunction with the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

Mr Hancock said: "I have been incredibly concerned by this issue and strongly believe that we need a radical new approach to the food that is served in our NHS.

"Staff, patients and families deserve so much better - our NHS should be at the forefront of supporting people to make healthy choices.

"I have instructed the NHS to conduct a root and branch review of hospital food."

A listeria infection can cause mild symptoms, but in pregnant women and those with a weak immune system it can cause serious problems.

The first three confirmed victims were at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust and Aintree University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in Liverpool.

It is not yet known where the latest two victims were receiving treatment, but PHE said there are seven trusts across the country dealing with listeria cases.

One is believed to have died after the first three confirmed cases, while the other died before.

The first case showed symptoms on 25 April and sandwiches and salads were withdrawn on 25 May.

It is understood that some of the products were sold at hospitals while others were given to patients.

The Good Food Chain, which supplied 43 NHS trusts across the UK, voluntarily ceased production.

The business was supplied with meat produced by North Country Cooked Meats, which has since tested positive for the outbreak strain of listeria and also stopped production.

Dr Nick Phin, deputy director at the national infection service at PHE, said: "To date, there have been no patients linked to this incident outside healthcare organisations, but we continue to investigate."

Listeria infection is rare and usually causes a mild illness in healthy people.

However, it can have more serious consequences among those with pre-existing medical conditions, pregnant women and those with a weak immune system.

The Good Food Chain said: "Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the families of those who have died and anyone else who has been affected by this outbreak. The underlying cause of it remains unclear.

"For our part, we are co-operating fully and transparently with the FSA (Food Standards Agency) and other authorities, and will continue to do so.

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