Crypto compensation: United Utilities faces £15m bill

United Utilities accepts it is facing a colossal compensation bill for the first cryptosporidium contamination of drinking water in the North West UK this century.

poop-in-poolBut the company has reassured consumers the payouts – estimated already at £15m and mounting – will not be offset by a rise in water bills.

“Bills will not increase to cover the cost of compensation,” insisted a spokesman.

“This cost will be borne by the company.”

With more than 300,000 households and businesses hit by the scare, now into its third week, United Utilities has declined to put a figure on how much the crypto invasion will amount to.

But in a recent case in Bolton, where consumers had to boil their drinking water for five days after supply problems, the company paid out £15 per house to cover the cost.

With the inconvenience to customers in Preston, South Ribble, Chorley, the Fylde Coast and villages like Samlesbury, Mellor and Mellor Brook at least three times that already, claims could amount to at least £45 a household, or £13.5m in total.

With businesses set to lodge much higher demands for compensation after providing bottled water to all employees during the scare – BAE Systems is thought to have spent more than £100,000 already on keeping its 10,000-strong workforce in Lancashire hydrated – the bill is estimated to be rising by £1m a day.

UK minister says cut food safety audits

George Eustice, DEFRA’s newly appointed Minister of State, told the British Meat Processors Association’s annual conference in London that  meat manufacturers – and food businesses at large – must be freed from the “burden” of audits.

Eustice argues the need for fewer audits was one of the key findings to come out of Professor Chris Elliott’s report into 2013 horsemeat scandal. By the end of 2015 the government hopes to have finalised a strategy that paves the way for fewer inspections from both retailers and government agencies.

audit.checklistBut could it backfire?

Consumer trust in food safety is at an all time low

Thanks to wholesale media coverage of some notable cases of food fraud and breaches of food safety, we are living in an age of major consumer scepticism. The public wants to see tighter regulations on the food industry and it’s easy to see how the call for reduced audits could be perceived as a step backwards, not forwards.

It’s a stance that’s difficult to begrudge. Little has been done to ratchet-up traceability and safety measures since horsegate.

One thing that most food businesses agree on is the need for food safety procedures to be more streamlined. Paper-based checks are easy to falsify, annoying to complete and time-consuming to review. Eustice appeared to recognise as much when he noted that a greater use of technology must be central to any plans to reduce the incidence of audits.

Any government strategy to remove unnecessary burdens from food businesses will be warmly received. But food businesses must remember their obligation of safety to the end consumer. Technology that offers cloud integration presents the opportunity for food businesses to share safety data with one another on an open platform, paving the way towards transparent food chains.

Inspections and audits are not synonymous with safety. Beyond sharing data amongst companies, share it with everyone – especially consumers.

Three years ago, a group of us came out with a paper we could all (mostly) agree with and got it published. The main points were:

  • food safety audits and inspections are a key component of the nation’s food safety system and their use will expand in the future, for both domestic and imported foodstuffs., but recent failures can be emotionally, physically and financially devastating to the victims and the businesses involved;
  • many outbreaks involve firms that have had their food production systems verified and received acceptable ratings from food safety auditors or government inspectors;
  • while inspectors and auditors play an active role in overseeing compliance, the burden for food safety lies primarily with food producers;
  • there are lots of limitations with audits and inspections, just like with restaurants inspections, but with an estimated 48 million sick each year in the U.S., the question should be, how best to improve food safety?
  • audit reports are only useful if the purchaser or food producer reviews the results, understands the risks addressed by the standards and makes risk-reduction decisions based on the results;
  • sunnybrook-auditorthere appears to be a disconnect between what auditors provide (a snapshot) and what buyers believe they are doing (a full verification or certification of product and process);
  • third-party audits are only one performance indicator and need to be supplemented with microbial testing, second-party audits of suppliers and the in-house capacity to meaningfully assess the results of audits and inspections;
  • companies who blame the auditor or inspector for outbreaks of foodborne illness should also blame themselves;
  • assessing food-handling practices of staff through internal observations, externally-led evaluations, and audit and inspection results can provide indicators of a food safety culture; and,
  • the use of audits to help create, improve, and maintain a genuine food safety culture holds the most promise in preventing foodborne illness and safeguarding public health.

Audits and inspections are never enough: A critique to enhance food safety


Food Control

D.A. Powell, S. Erdozain, C. Dodd, R. Costa, K. Morley, B.J. Chapman


Internal and external food safety audits are conducted to assess the safety and quality of food including on-farm production, manufacturing practices, sanitation, and hygiene. Some auditors are direct stakeholders that are employed by food establishments to conduct internal audits, while other auditors may represent the interests of a second-party purchaser or a third-party auditing agency. Some buyers conduct their own audits or additional testing, while some buyers trust the results of third-party audits or inspections. Third-party auditors, however, use various food safety audit standards and most do not have a vested interest in the products being sold. Audits are conducted under a proprietary standard, while food safety inspections are generally conducted within a legal framework. There have been many foodborne illness outbreaks linked to food processors that have passed third-party audits and inspections, raising questions about the utility of both. Supporters argue third-party audits are a way to ensure food safety in an era of dwindling economic resources. Critics contend that while external audits and inspections can be a valuable tool to help ensure safe food, such activities represent only a snapshot in time. This paper identifies limitations of food safety inspections and audits and provides recommendations for strengthening the system, based on developing a strong food safety culture, including risk-based verification steps, throughout the food safety system.

UK girl, 11, fighting for life in hospital as butchers supplying local school closed

An 11-year-old girl was left fighting for her life in hospital after a butchers supplying her school was closed in an E. coli O157 outbreak.

e.coli.Tia DonaldsonTia Donaldson, from Billingham, Teesside, was in a critical condition in hospital after suffering kidney failure and a series of mini strokes.

A local butchers shop, Robinson’s Butchers and Caterers, was voluntarily closed down last month after a total of 15 people in the area were affected by E. coli.

Tia’s mum Rachel Donaldson told the Teesside Gazette how Tia could be left with permanent damage after being placed on kidney dialysis and nearly suffering ruptures of her bowel and stomach.

The horrendous turn of events began when Tia was sent home from school on Friday, July 10, complaining of a stomach ache.

By Sunday, her symptoms were so severe that Rachael and Tia’s dad John, 52, took her to Stockton’s North Tees Hospital.

Rachael said after spending three days at North Tees Tia was blue-lighted to the RVI on July 15 – where Tia has been ever since.

She is now off dialysis and has seen a slight improvement in her condition.

Health protection experts from Public Health England and environmental health teams from both Stockton and County Durham councils are continuing to investigate all possible sources of the outbreak.

Robinson’s butchers agreed to close on a voluntary basis while the source is investigated.

A statement released by Northfield School and Sports College, said: “Public Health England say that the source of this outbreak is not yet known.

15 still sick with E. coli O157 linked to UK butcher

Fifteen cases of E. coli O157 have emerged as a result of an outbreak. Health officials say many of those affected fell ill after eating pre-cooked meats or savoury products purchased or supplied by the Robinsons Butchers site in Billingham.

butchers1.jpg-pwrt3-300x2251-300x225Investigations into the source of the outbreak are continuing. Anyone who bought products from the Billingham shop between June 25 and July 15 has been advised to dispose of the items.

No cases have been associated with the Robinson’s Wingate premises since control measures were introduced on Wednesday, July 15

Amandeep Dhillon, an Irwin Mitchell partner and specialist public health lawyer, said the firm had now heard first-hand accounts regarding the outbreak linked to Robinson’s Butchers in Billingham and “are beginning to make our own enquiries in relation to the problems.”

Indian restaurant in Wales ‘disgusting’

The owner of the Royal Massala restaurant has been ordered to do unpaid work after admitting offences.

royalA rodent infestation, mouldy food and a dirty kitchen that put customers at risk have landed one Indian restaurant owner in court.

Inspectors uncovered a catalogue of health hazards at the Royal Massala in Pencoed, near Bridgend, and slapped it with a zero rating.

But owner Sheik Mohammed Anwar failed to clean up his act – receiving a rating of one in a follow-up inspection – and he has now been sentenced in court, according to a statement from Bridgend County Borough Council.

The council has also threatened to ban Anwar from managing any food business in the future.

Inconceivable: UK shellfish farms closed amid sewage fears

Sewage bacteria, thought to be E. coli, was found in the Camel Estuary, St Austell and Falmouth Bays, said the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

inconceivableThe Shellfish Association of Great Britain contests the move, claiming the test results are “inconceivable”.

The FSA said it was “monitoring the situation” but the shellfish beds would remain closed.

David Jarrard, of the Shellfish Association, said: “The industry treats food safety as paramount.

“But I was astonished with these results, we have never seen any of this magnitude before and I just don’t believe them.

“The results we have had are akin to raw sewage and for that to happen in one river might be possible but to find it in all these areas is inconceivable.”

It has asked the FSA to disregard the results while an investigation takes place.

An FSA spokesperson said: “The results are unusually high which is why they require further investigation.

“We are monitoring the situation by taking further samples but until we have evidence to the contrary the beds must remain closed to protect public health.”

12 now sick with E. coli O157 linked to UK butcher

Four more reports of E. coli O157 infections in the North East have been received by health officials in the last 24 hours

butchers.jpg-pwrt3This brings the total number of people affected to 12, of which five are in hospital.

Four of the people in hospital are children aged between eight and fourteen. The fifth person in hospital is an adult.

Although a definite source has not yet been identified, many of the affected people are known to have eaten pre-cooked meats or savoury products supplied by Robinson’s butcher and caterer who have shops in Wingate and Billingham.

8 sick with E coli O157 linked to UK butcher

Three children are in hospital after a suspected E. coli outbreak in County Durham and Teesside.

butchers.jpg-pwrt3Public Health England (PHE) is warning people to not eat any cold pre-cooked meats and savouries bought since 25 June from Robinsons butchers in Wingate and Billingham.

Seven confirmed cases and one suspected one have been reported in the past week in both adults and children, PHE said.

A spokesman for Robinsons said it was discarding all ready to eat food.


1 dead, 32 sickened: Salmonella in UK eggs from Bavaria

The UK also has an egg problem.

A report has found a Salmonella outbreak at a Birmingham hospital directly caused the death of a patient.

egg.dirty.feb.12The outbreak at Heartlands Hospital in Bordesley Green, between 25 May and 18 June 2014, saw 32 staff and patients infected.

Five of those patients, who were seriously ill, later died, but salmonella was not directly responsible, the report said.

The outbreak was traced to contaminated eggs produced in Bavaria, Germany.

Prof Eric Bolton’s report found inadequately equipped wards, unmonitored food preparation, and poor cleaning helped it spread.

Initial swabbing found a food trolley in the Beech ward, left near a toilet, to be contaminated with salmonella.

There were staff shortages on the two wards, which led to them feeling a sense of “blame and isolation”.

“On reflection these staff were taking the brunt of the salmonella infection issues and became a little demoralised during the outbreak,” the report said.

Main report recommendations:

  • The Heart of England NHS Trust should review its infection control and cleaning services to ensure they meet the requirements of The Health and Social Care Act 2008
  • The trust should review the need for a plan that deals with major incidents or outbreaks
  • The trust should regularly review major policies that relate to patient safety and infection control procedures as a number were overdue for review
  • The trust should review all of its high-risk, specialist wards in the light of the experience from this outbreak and ensure that the ward environment and equipment is fit for purpose
  • The trust should ensure that all ward staff handling food undertake food hygiene training.


Mouse infestation costs UK pub £13,000

I like that the UK at least fines food safety ‘tards.

alexander.pubA mouse infestation at a Weybridge pub led to multiple food hygiene offences, resulting in costs totaling more than £13,000.

Gastro UK Ltd, the company operating The Alexander pub, in Oatlands Drive, pleaded guilty to eight food hygiene offences at Redhill Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, May 19.

The charges relate to a routine inspection by a food team from Elmbridge Borough Council on August 15 last year.

Officers found evidence of a mouse infestation in ‘several areas of the business’, according to a statement released by the council, alongside poor structure and cleaning of the premises and a failure to implement a ‘suitable food safety management system’.

When officers returned on September 25 to undertake checks on compliance, the statement added, all the issues had not been resolved.

As a result, the court fined Gastro UK Ltd £1,400 per offence, amounting to £11,200, and ordered the company to pay £2,596 to the council for costs.