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Last Updated: Friday, 6 January 2006, 12:05 GMT
E.coli outbreak 'handled well'
E.coli on laboratory Petri dish
A total of 158 people contracted the E.coli bug
Health experts have said an outbreak of the E.coli bug which affected 158 people in south Wales was well-managed by public health officials.

The review, carried out by acting chief medical officer for Wales Dr David Salter, makes 22 recommendations to reduce the risk of a recurrence.

However, the review team said none of the recommendations would have prevented the outbreak from happening.

Mason Jones, five, from Bargoed, died after contracting the bug.

Dr Salter told journalists on Friday that the review was designed to look into the public health response to the outbreak to make sure there were no immediate measures needed ahead of a public inquiry to be carried out on behalf of the assembly.

Acting Chief Medical Officer for Wales Dr David Salter
Dr Salter admitted the review was limited in scope

It was limited in scope because of an ongoing police investigation into Mason Jones' death, and was not designed to apportion blame or identify the site of the outbreak.

Dr Salter said: "We can take some comfort from the effective handling of the outbreak by the outbreak control team."

He added the recommendations "should not be seen as a criticism of individuals or organisations".

Dr Salter added: "I don't think we can possibly say this wouldn't happen again. All we can do is put systems in place and use proper planning.

It is important these organisations now carefully look at these recommendations and how they can act on them
Dr Brian Gibbons

"We can only minimise the risk."

Dr Mike Simmons, the deputy chief medical officer for Wales who chaired the review team, said: "It appears to be a model of outbreak management."

Eight recommendations were made to the Foods Standards Agency (FSA) to review existing food legislation and guidance to local authorities into how often food premises should be inspected.

Local authorities are being urged to work more closely with the FSA to introduce new measures to improve food hygiene as well as ensuring there are enough staff to deal with food poison or infection outbreak.

A review on school cleansing was also recommended, with particular focus on toilets and ensuring pupils have access to soap and hot water.

The National Public Health Service was advised to investigate alternative ways to communicate with the public rather than just through the media, including using its website.

Picture of Mason Jones
Mason Jones, five, died after contracting the E.coli infection

The team also pointed out to the Welsh Assembly Government the difficulties of running a review at the same time as a police investigation.

Assembly health minister Brian Gibbons said: "When I asked for the review to be undertaken, I asked them to identify any areas of immediate concern.

"It is important these organisations now carefully look at these recommendations and how they can act on them."

A Food Standards Agency spokeswoman said the body welcomed the review's recommendations.

Dinners

Dr Gibbons commissioned the report in late October to review the response to the food poisoning cases at 42 south Wales valleys schools.

The Chief Medical Officer's review is separate from the cross-party assembly inquiry into the outbreak, headed by Professor Hugh Pennington, which is still taking evidence.

Public health officials found the initial source of the E-coli food poisoning to be school dinners, although cases were later spread by person-to-person contact.

A Bridgend-based meat firm with contracts to supply schools and old people's homes in four local authorities in south Wales was closed in September after Bridgend Council issued an emergency prohibition order.

The court order was lifted last month, and the firm, John Tudor and Son of Bridgend, was allowed to resume trading following a fresh inspection.

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