Three people dead after sandwiches 'infected with listeria' given to hospital patients

THREE people have been killed after catching listeria from dodgy sandwiches, health officials have warned.

An investigation has been launched after six hospital patients picked up the bug, Public Health England confirmed.

Three of those patients have since passed away.

The deaths occurred at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust and Aintree University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

Infected sarnies pulled

Officials said meat from supplier North Country Cooked Meats has tested positive for the strain of listeria responsible for the outbreak.

The company has voluntarily ceased production.

They supplied meat to The Good Food Chain, who made the sandwiches. They have since pulled all prepacked sandwiches and salads from sale.

It is unclear if more Brits will come down with the infection – as it can take 70 days from exposure to show signs of the illness.

Dr Kimon Andreas Karatzas, associate professor in food microbiology at the University of Reading, said: "The company has ceased production and hopefully this can put an end to the outbreak.

"However, due to a relatively long incubation period it's possible that there could potentially be some more cases."

A PHE spokesperson confirmed the items of food were no longer being produced.

The affected products were also pulled from hospitals when the links to the listeria infections were first identified.

Following the product withdrawal, Public Health England and Health Protection Scotland have written to their respective NHS Trusts and Boards to ensure that they are following appropriate food storage and handling protocols and to provide clinical guidance.

'Risk to public is low'

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."

Bug can cause meningitis and death

Listeria bacteria can prove serious for pregnant women and people with weak immune systems.

Prof Brendan Wren, an expert from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: "If consumed it can lead to gastroenteritis, and in compromised patients more severe disease such as meningitis and, in rare cases, death.
"Pregnant women can pass the infection to their unborn children who are particularly susceptible to infection.

"In this small outbreak there appears a cluster of cases in hospitalised patients that were already ill.

"Listeria can survive refrigeration temperatures, which means it can persist in food processing equipment and in the food chain."

Company boasts 'quality products'

The Good Food Chain supplies universities, businesses and sporting venues with sandwiches.

On their website, they state: "We're proud to be revolutionising sandwiches for healthcare patients.

"Giving you more for less – making them fresh, tasty, nutritious, attractive and incredible value for money – is our mission.

"Our products are designed around today's patients – to give them a coffee shop style sandwich in bed."

They added: "Our customers enjoy quality products at the right price. They have peace of mind that all our products are lovingly hand prepared in a safe environment, as you would in your own kitchen."

THE SIGNS OF LISTERIOSIS TO WATCH OUT FOR

LISTERIOSIS is a rare infection caused by the listeria bacteria.

It tends to be harmless, but can prove serious for pregnant women and people with weak immune systems.

It's usually caught from eating infected foods, typicallly:

  • unpasturised milk
  • dairy products made from unpasturised milk
  • soft cheese, like brie
  • chilled ready-to-eat foods, like prepacked sandwiches

It's also possible to catch listeriosis from someone else who has it, or close contact with farm animals.

The bacteria can cause a life-threatening infection, where symptoms can appear similar to flu, including:

  • a high temperature
  • muscle ache or pain
  • chills
  • feeling or being sick
  • diarrhoea

If you think you, or a loved one, is affected seek medical help.

Find out more on the NHS website here.

 

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."

Around 166 annual cases of listeria are recorded in England and Wales.

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.

Pregnant women and people with underlying health conditions can find more information on the NHS website.



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