Page last updated at 20:18 GMT, Thursday, 1 May 2008 21:18 UK

E.coli meat inspections defended

Meat slicer at Tudor & Son
Pictures of conditions at Tudor's were shown to the inquiry

A south Wales council has defended its role in inspecting the meat factory at the centre of 2005's E.coli outbreak.

Bridgend County Council said it made a "reasonable" decision to allow William Tudor to use one vacuum-packing machine for both cooked and uncooked meat

In written closing submissions to the E.coli public inquiry, it added the rules on the issue were "unclear".

Lawyers representing families involved in the outbreak have criticised the council's Environmental Health team.

Five-year-old Mason Jones, of Deri, near Bargoed, died in the outbreak in schools and 150 adults and children became ill.

Mr Tudor, who ran John Tudor & Son in Bridgend, was jailed for supplying contaminated meat at the centre of the outbreak.

The inquiry, chaired by Professor Hugh Pennington, previously heard how staff at the firm used one vacuum-packing machine for both cooked and uncooked meat.

Mason Jones
Mason Jones, five, died after eating contaminated cooked meat

Environmental health officer Angela Coles said she had some concerns over the machine but was told by Mr Tudor that a second machine was being repaired.

On other occasions when only one machine was found at the factory, other excuses were given, the inquiry was told.

Photographs shown to the inquiry revealed the unhygenic conditions in the factory, with congealed blood on machines and pieces of raw meat left on the floor.

In their submissions to the inquiry, lawyers for the families involved say failures "both systematic and personal" enabled Mr Tudor to operate from a factory which created a 'high probability of risk', and that the council failed in their statutory duties.

The families are now calling for the inspection system across all local authorities to be tightened up.

Bridgend council do accept that there were deficiencies in the way its officers worked with the factory to introduce a hazard assessment plan.

But it says that the government had intended the scheme to be introduced on a "softly softly" basis.

It also says that Mr Tudor's "undoubted attempts at deceit" gave their officers the impression that he was a "competent and informed food operator".

All parties will be given the opportunity to discuss the submissions in the next hearing on 14 and 15 May.

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