THE butcher linked to the fatal food poisoning outbreak in Scotland supplied cooked meats to a party a day after he was told to withdraw his products, it was claimed yesterday. Strathclyde detectives began an investigation into the timing of the sale as a sixth person died from the suspected E. coli 0157 outbreak.
Butchers John M. Barr & Son, of Wishaw, supplied a party with turkey, boiled ham and roast beef on Saturday, November 23, despite being told to remove all cooked meats from sale the night before, Lanarkshire Health Board said. Twenty-two guests out of 104 who attended the eighteenth birthday celebration in The Cascade pub, Coltness, near Wishaw, more than a week ago have symptoms of E. coli 0157. One is in hospital and six guests have yet to be traced. Strathclyde Police said: "We have been instructed by the Procurator Fiscal to look into the circumstances surrounding this sale."
The 72-year-old woman who died yesterday in Monklands Hospital, Airdrie, after being admitted to hospital on November 24, has not been named. A total of 168 people have now been confirmed as being infected with E. coli 0157, most of them in Lanarkshire. It is feared that as many as one in ten may develop kidney problems. Fifty-eight people are in hospital and 25 are seriously ill, including four children in Glasgow's Yorkhill Hospital who are still receiving dialysis for kidney damage, as are two adults at Glasgow Royal Infirmary and a 60-year-old woman who is critical but stable. John Reid, MP for Motherwell North, said he was devastated by the news that a batch of potentially contaminated meat had been sold after health warnings.
Hugh Pennington, who is head ing the Scottish Office inquiry into the epidemic, said yesterday: "This outbreak is unusual in that it was not associated with burgers, milk or water. We still have a lot to learn about the E. coli organism. "This is not just a burger bug." Professor Pennington has been asked by Michael Forsyth, the Scottish Secretary, to prepare his report by Christmas.
John M. Barr & Son gave environmental health officers a list of outlets on Saturday, but more emerged over the course of last week. One further venue was disclosed on Sunday and then the eighteenth birthday party. The firm has now referred all enquiries to its insurers, Hamilton, Burns & Moore, who yesterday said that they were not aware of any claims against the firm.
Legal aid has been granted to seven children, aged between 3 and 7, to prepare a ground-breaking legal action over E. coli 0157 against the Government (Frances Gibb writes). The children, who suffered food poisoning and kidney problems in different incidents in England, say it failed to give warning of the dangers of undercooked beef and the risks of the bacterium. They will also be suing variously McDonald's Restaurants, a firm of meat suppliers and an abattoir. Their claims for damages will argue that the Government should impose mandatory labelling of beef products for the required cooking time and temperature. It should also impose mandatory steam cleaning of carcasses.
A spokesman for McDonald's said last night: "The danger from E. coli is well known and it is extremely important to cook all food at the right temperature and for the right length of time. We would like to reassure our customers that all McDonald's products are cooked to exacting standards and to the highest specification."
A FAMILY is considering legal action against the butcher at the centre of the Scottish food poisoning outbreak after 22 guests at a party fell ill. The move came as a seventh person died from the outbreak. The unnamed man was 74 and came from Wishaw, North Lanarkshire. Strathclyde Police are investigating how cooked meats were supplied by John M. Barr & Son for Lauren MacFarlane's eighteenth birthday party, despite warnings from health officials that they were the suspected source of E. coli 0157 bacteria. William and Fay MacFarlane said they were considering the possibility of seeking compensation for distress to themselves and their daughter's guests.
The couple said yesterday that they had asked health officials if the cold meat was safe and had sought reassurances from the butcher. Paul Santoni, the family lawyer, said that they arranged through a relative to buy the meat from Barr's in Wishaw. The relative was assured that the food scare related only to meats of "a type not purchased by my clients". Mr Santoni said Mrs MacFarlane had also checked with Law Hospital in Carluke where victims were being treated and had been told "to go ahead and have a good party".
The newsletter alleged that British salmon farms were getting around restrictions on marine use of the chemical by keeping small herds of sheep. The German press complained that farmers who used the chemical illegally were given only token punishment: one was fined £500. Die Zeit claimed that the 1974 Control of Pollution Act had been amended to allow release of Ivermectin into open waters.
Salmon farmers reacted angrily to the claims. William Crowe, chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Growers' Association, said: "The German reports are scurrilous and false and we are taking legal advice." The farmers are allowed to use Ivermectin to control sea lice under strict conditions provided they get consent. Only four of the 343 farms have such consent.
Ministry of Agriculture tests found traces of Ivermectin in 10 per cent of salmon sampled in 1995, but Scottish farmers said that the tests did not distinguish between home-reared and imported salmon, which accounts for a fifth of all salmon sold in Britain. Irish, Canadian and Norwegian salmon farmers have used Ivermectin.
EU consumer protection chief Ken Collins today set a three-point plan to regain consumer confidence in the wake of the mad cow crisis. Mr Collins, chairman of the European Parliament's all-party consumer committee, told a London conference organised by Charter 88 and the Independent newspaper:
'It is possible that the BSE crisis may eventually serve a useful purpose. It must be hoped that the overwhelming sense of "never again" experienced by so many concerned with BSE may be harnessed and provoke reforms to the system for making food policy.'Mr Collins (Labour, Strathclyde East) called for:
+ BOOSTED competence for the EU in making public health policy; + INCREASED consultation and use of independent advisors; and + ESTABLISHMENT of a European food agency.Said Mr Collins: 'In the context of the single market, consumer protection measures must be uniform. The codecision procedure, which gives the European Parliament the power of veto should be extended to this area.' This would weaken the ability of the Council of Ministers to 'stall even the weak measures it so secretly produces.'
Policy makers needed independent, expert advise. 'In the case of policy on BSE, this means allowing independent scientists and consumer groups to access decision makers on a footing which is at least equal to that of agriculture and industry lobbies. Good policy usually emerges from wide consultation rather than slavish devotion to the deregulated market.'
Establishment of a European Food Agency was 'a matter of urgency,' said Mr Collins. 'Only then will consumers feel that the EU has a food market which is safe as well as integrated.'