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Last Updated: Monday, 26 September 2005, 19:44 GMT 20:44 UK
E.coli inquiry 'should be public'
E.coli bacteria

There are mounting calls for the inquiry into the E.coli outbreak in the south Wales valleys to be held in public.

So far, 117 people have been affected - 25 have been treated in hospital with four children in specialist care.

Parents of children affected by the outbreak are calling for a public inquiry with some getting legal advice.

Welsh Health Minister Brian Gibbons said the public would be fully informed of the outcome of any inquiry.

Three children admitted for treatment to Alder Hey children's hospital, Liverpool, after being infected with e-coli were all in a stable condition on Monday afternoon, as was a fourth child being treated in Bristol.

'Terrible ordeal'

Both Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats in the Welsh assembly have said there should be a public inquiry into the outbreak.

Welsh First Minister Rhodri Morgan said he was "absolutely" committed to a full inquiry, while Welsh Health Minister Dr Gibbons said on Monday that the form the inquiry would take would be decided in the coming weeks.

SCHOOLS AFFECTED
Primary: Abertaf; Blaengwawr; Bedlinog; Pengeulan; Capcoch; Caradog; Upper Rhymney; Comin; YGG Llwyncelyn; Cwmdare; Aberdare Town Church School; Troedyrhiw; Rhigos; Glenboi; Maesycoed; Cwmlai; Hirwaun; Parc Lewis, Ysgol yr Castell; Brynna; Cwrt Rawlin, Caerphilly.
Infants: Cwmbach; Penygraig; Cynon; Glyntaf; Ynyswen.
Secondary: Pen y Dre; St John the Baptist; Archbishop McGrath; Ysgol Pen Yr Englyn; Treorchy.

He added: "You can be assured that we will be looking very thoroughly into this that we need to learn the lessons of what worked very well and...where things didn't work as well as they should.

"Everybody who has been affected by this will have full information as to why this happened and also to know that we have learned the lessons.

"I'm sure particularly the parents and children who've been through this terrible ordeal will want to be assured that this isn't going to happen again."

Dr Gibbons added that he believed the outbreak was being brought under control despite two new cases on Monday.

He said: "The experts are telling us that the peak is over that while new cases are being picked up on a day to day basis, a number of these patients have had their infection a few days ago or even a week ago.

"I don't think the extra cases mean the outbreak isn't coming under control."

'Negative tests'

Meanwhile, a meat supplier linked to the outbreak - John Tudor and Sons of Bridgend - released a statement on Monday which said that initial tests for the bacterium at its premises have proved negative.

In its statement, the company said: "John Tudor and Sons have been operating since 1955 without blemish. They have provided services for local authorities since 1964.

"This is the first investigation of its kind and Will Tudor is co-operating fully with health officers at Bridgend local authority.

"Tests carried out on the 19 September, 2005 have proved negative and results are awaited of further tests.

"Will Tudor's thoughts are with the children and families involved."

A spokesperson for the National Public Health Service for Wales said the company is still the focus of the investigation and further test results were awaited.

The firm has been told to stop trading, and any business receiving cooked meat from the firm has been told to withdraw it.

'Very angry'

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has also asked all local authorities in Wales to contact any businesses to ensure they have not bought any cooked meat from the firm, to ensure it obtains a full list of the firm's customers.

More than 600 premises have received supplies from John Tudor and Sons, according to the FSA.

Liam Riddiford and mother Sonia
Sonia Riddiford is angry about her son's illness

Many of the new cases involve relatives of infected children. Others have eaten cooked meat at premises other than schools.

Sonia Riddiford from Aberdare, whose nine-year-old son Liam was one of the first children to be affected, said parents wanted answers.

"After the initial worry about what was wrong with him, I just feel very angry now," she said.

"We are living in a society where hygiene is so much of a priority that something like this shouldn't happen."

The parents of one victim have asked solicitors to press for the official inquiry to be urgent and open.

Stephen Webber, of solicitors Hugh James, said the parents' priority was that children recovered, but legal action may follow.

He said: "The main concern is that there is a full public, open inquiry to find out what's happened, why it's happened, and to stop anything like this happening again."

Mr Webber said the families hit by the outbreak might seek compensation.

"There is no way that these children do not deserve compensation for what they have been through. It is possible that legal action could follow."


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See how one school is tackling E.coli



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