Third company recalls popular food product as a 'precautionary measure' due to possible E. coli contamination

17 June 2024, 08:38

THIS! has issued a recall notice to customers over its vegan chicken and bacon wrap which is sold at WH Smith
THIS! has issued a recall notice to customers over its vegan chicken and bacon wrap which is sold at WH Smith. Picture: Food Standards Agency

By Asher McShane

A third company has recalled a product as a "precautionary measure" due to possible E. coli contamination.

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The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said manufacturer THIS! has issued a recall notice to customers over its vegan chicken and bacon wrap, which is sold only at WH Smith.

The agency said anyone who purchased the product at any point up to and including Tuesday, June 18, should not eat it and instead return it to the store for a full refund.

It comes just days after manufacturers Greencore Group and Samworth Brothers Manton Wood recalled a variety of sandwiches, wraps and salads sold in major UK supermarkets because of a potential link to an E.coli outbreak that left people across the UK in hospital.

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THIS! has issued a recall notice to customers over its vegan chicken and bacon wrap
THIS! has issued a recall notice to customers over its vegan chicken and bacon wrap. Picture: Food Standards Agency

The products being recalled by Greencore include sandwiches, wraps and salads sold at Sainsbury's, Asda, Aldi, Morrisons, Co-op, and retail pharmacy chain Boots.

Samworth Brothers Manton Wood is recalling various Tesco and One Stop sandwiches and wraps.

Darren Whitby, head of incidents at the Food Standards Agency, said: "Sandwich manufacturers are taking a precautionary measure to recall various sandwiches wraps and salads in response to findings from investigations by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), who are working to identify the cause of an ongoing outbreak caused by shiga toxin-producing E.coli (Stec)."

Greencore Group said in a statement: "As a precautionary measure, we have voluntarily recalled a number of sandwiches and wraps due to a potential food safety risk.

"Greencore adheres to the highest standards of food safety, and we are working closely with the Food Standards Agency and our suppliers to better understand the possible source of any potential issue."

A Samworth Brothers Manton Wood spokesperson said: "The Food Standards Agency has advised the supplier of a salad ingredient which we use in a small number of products that it should undertake a product withdrawal and recall.

"Meanwhile, food chain investigations are being carried out, which have not yet reached any conclusions.

"A small number of sandwich and wrap lines that are made at our Manton Wood site are being recalled as a precautionary measure to ensure a high level of health protection for consumers. No other Manton Wood products are affected."

E. coli are a diverse group of bacteria that are normally harmless and live in the intestines of humans and animals.

However some strains, like Stec, can make people very ill.

As of June 11, the number of cases associated with the Stec outbreak is 211, an increase of 98 since a previous update from UKHSA on June 6.

Based on information from 160 cases to date, 42% were admitted to hospital.

Trish Mannes, incident director at UKHSA, said: "We would like to thank all the cases who have provided information that has enabled us, through epidemiological analysis of questionnaire data and food-tracing investigations, to narrow down the likely food product linked to this outbreak."

Sue Davies, head of consumer protection policy at Which? said the outbreak shows how "we can never afford to be complacent with our food safety and food standards".

"With so many people so severely affected, it's right that products are being withdrawn on a precautionary basis. Supermarkets and the FSA must do everything they can to make people aware of potentially affected products and ensure that they do not eat them.

"The FSA and UK Health Security Agency must get to the bottom of how this widespread outbreak has happened and take all action necessary to prevent any more people from becoming ill."

Earlier this month, the agency confirmed at least 37 people had been admitted to hospital following the E. coli outbreak, which it believed to be linked to food.

Whole genome sequencing of samples showed the majority of the 113 cases reported across the UK between May 25 and June 4 were part of a single outbreak.

At the time, the agency said it believed the outbreak, which mostly affected young adults, was linked to a nationally distributed food item or multiple food items.

Some 147 cases were confirmed in England, with 27 in Wales, 35 in Scotland and two in Northern Ireland who believe they fell ill in England.

People infected with Stec can suffer diarrhoea, and about 50% of cases have bloody diarrhoea.

Other symptoms include stomach cramps and fever. Symptoms can last up to two weeks in uncomplicated cases.

Some patients, mainly children, may develop haemolytic uraemic syndrome which is a serious life-threatening condition resulting in kidney failure.

A small proportion of adults may develop a similar condition called thrombotic thrombocytopaenic purpura (TTP).

Mr Whitby added: "This is a complex investigation, and we have worked swiftly with the relevant businesses and the local authorities concerned to narrow down the wide range of foods consumed to a small number of salad leaf products that have been used in sandwiches and wraps.

"Following thorough food chain analysis, these products are being recalled as a precaution.

"The FSA is here to ensure that food is safe. If there are products on the market that are not, we won't hesitate to take action to remove them."

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: "Food safety is the highest priority for our members and those who sell or prepare food are well-versed in food safety measures.

"Following investigations by the FSA and UKHSA regulators, a number of manufacturers in the supply chain are taking precautionary measures and issuing a recall notice for a small number of products.

"Retailers affected are taking swift action to remove these products from sale and are working closely with the Food Standards Agency to take any further action needed to minimise risk to their customers."

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