Listeria Outbreak: Sixth Person Dies In Hospital

1 August 2019, 14:30

Listeria Monocytogenes
Listeria Monocytogenes. Picture: Getty

LBC spoke to The British Sandwich Association after a sixth hospital patient died from eating pre-packaged sandwiches and salads linked to a listeria outbreak.

The latest death was one of the nine cases previously confirmed and Public Health England said there have been no new cases linked to the listeria outbreak.

The patient, whose age and gender were not given, acquired listeriosis from Good Food Chain products while at Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Western Sussex Hospitals' chief nurse and director of infection prevention and control, Dr Maggie Davies, said: "We are greatly saddened by this news and wish to extend our sincere condolences to the patient's family and friends.

"Patient safety is always our absolute priority and as soon as we were informed we may have received contaminated chicken sandwiches from the Good Food Chain we removed all products from our hospitals.

"Since then, we have had no further listeriosis infections reported to us and we want to reassure our patients, visitors and staff that the risk remains very low."

The other deaths occurred at four different hospital trusts - two at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, one at Aintree University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in Liverpool, one at University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust and the fifth at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.

LBC's Senior Reporter Matthew Thompson spoke to the Head of The British Sandwich Association who said that as a precaution, pre-packaged sandwiches should not be eaten by sick patients.

He said: "Listeria is all around us, so we can't avoid listeria altogether. Although we do a massive job to reduce it in factories and get it pretty much eliminated, there's always going to be a risk of traces of it getting through.

"In certain environments, particularly in hot temperatures, which hospitals tend to have around them, listeria grows prolifically. So the problem doesn't start in factories, so much as within the hospital really in terms of the risks."

He stated that clinicians need to decide whether it's appropriate for a patient to eat a pre-packaged sandwich. He thinks they "shouldn't be eaten by certain people who have suppressed immune systems... generally the elderly, those who are pregnant...or someone who perhaps has got cancer."

listeria outbreak salmonella food hospitals
In this lab, researchers infect food with listeria and salmonella and figure out how to kill it. Picture: PA

He stressed that listeria occurs naturally in cheeses, smoked salmon, things we pick out of our garden and that there is therefore always a chance that chilled, uncooked food like sandwiches could contain it, although only a very small proportion of certain groups of people may be vulnerable to the risk.

There is another case at Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, one case at Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust and one at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, which have not been fatal.

Public Health England insisted the health risk to the public remains low.