Page last updated at 14:37 GMT, Thursday, 17 September 2009 15:37 UK

E.coli inquiry shuts second farm

Godstone Farm and Playbarn
Godstone Farm was closed to the public on Saturday

A second farm linked to a children's animal attraction at the centre of an E.coli outbreak has agreed to close amid criticism over its hygiene regime.

Horton Park Children's Farm in Epsom - a "sister farm" to Godstone Farm - now linked to 40 cases of E.coli - has agreed to close voluntarily.

Hygiene arrangements there were found to be unsatisfactory, the Health Protection Agency has said.

A letter at Horton Park's entrance stressed it had no E.coli cases.

But a spokeswoman for the Health Protection Agency (HPA) said: "The hygiene arrangements were found to be unsatisfactory and the HPA advised the local authority that the farm should be closed immediately while these defects were rectified."

She confirmed that officials were not aware of any cases of E.coli O157 linked to Horton Park, which has the same owners as Godstone Farm.

The letter displayed at the entrance to the farm said it had closed as a temporary measure "owing to concerns expressed by us and others, and due to the slight risk to our customers of the chance of disease".

'Precautionary measure'

It said the farm would remain closed until everything had been done to eliminate or reduce any potential risk to customers and friends.

It added: "Horton Farm has had no suspected or actual cases of E.coli and that this is a precautionary measure."

Midge McCall, a spokeswoman for Epsom and Ewell Borough Council, said the HPA had asked the council's environmental health team to inspect Horton Park.

Closure notice at Horton Park farm entrance
A notice at Horton Park said the closure was a precautionary move

She said: "Following subsequent advice from the HPA, the children's farm in Horton Lane, Epsom, has decided to close temporarily as a precautionary measure."

The 40 confirmed E.coli cases linked to Godstone Farm include 14 children who are in hospital.

Four of the youngsters are seriously ill, seven are in a stable condition, and three are improving.

A pair of two-year-old twins from Paddock Wood in Kent - Aaron and Todd Furnell - have suffered acute kidney failure.

On Wednesday, the chief executive of the HPA, Justin McCracken, telephoned the parents of some of the children most affected by the outbreak to apologise to them in person about delays in closing Godstone Farm.

Twins Todd [left] and Aaron [right] have acute kidney failure
Twins Todd [left] and Aaron Furnell are in a stable condition in hospital

Initially, the agency said the first case came to light on 27 August, but it later emerged it had received a report of two cases in the previous week.

Mr McCracken said the position the families had found themselves in was unbearable and what had happened "might have been avoidable".

An independent investigation into the handling of the outbreak has been commissioned.

A press statement issued by Richard Oatway on behalf of Godstone Farm said all the staff were very upset about the outbreak and hoped everyone made a full and speedy recovery.

Mr Oatway said he and a Mrs Flaherty had run Godstone Farm since 1980.

He added: "Our main priority has always been to make sure that the farm is safe for everyone who comes here to visit.

"This included our own children and grandchildren.

"We have cooperated fully with all the authorities from the very beginning and will of course continue to do so."

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The closure of Horton Park Children's Farm, in Epsom is over hygiene concerns



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