Header graphic for print

Food Safety News

Breaking news for everyone's consumption

Campylobacter in chicken liver parfait nearly killed British man

A British man who was admitted to intensive care after an awards banquet in October lost the use of his limbs, his speech and the ability to blink — leaving his eyes wide open and him unable to sleep.

“I remember trying to communicate to my wife that I didn’t want our son to see me as I felt like I was turning into a vegetable,” Philip Earlam told the Evening Standard. “I couldn’t move and I could barely see. It was so frightening seeing parts of my body shut down and having no idea why it was happening or what could be done to stop it.”

Earlam, 47. works for Vodafone, a telecommunications conglomerate, and was one of 63 people Public Health England said were confirmed, or thought to have contracted Campylobacter at The Brewery conference centre in Chiswell Street, Barbican. The center hosted the Digital Impact Awards in October and used Gather & Gather to cater the event.

Earlam, who got sick the next morning at his home in Northwich, Chesire, spent several days in intensive care and then was transferred to a neurological ward at Royal Stoke Hospital, the Evening Standard reported.

“Within the space of 24 hours I’d gone from planning on returning to work to being in intensive care, hooked up to various machines, and with the staff struggling to establish what was wrong with me as my condition deteriorated on an hourly basis. … It just felt like I was silently slipping away.”

He was diagnosed with Miller Fisher Syndrome, which can be triggered by Campylobacter. It causes abnormal muscle coordination, paralysis of the eye muscles, absence of the tendon reflexes and is fatal in 8 percent of cases.

Ultimately, Earlam spent seven weeks in the hospital.

He is suing Gather and Gather. Several other people who ate at the banquet are taking action through Leigh Day solicitors.

Many recipes call for baking chicken liver parfait to only 150 degrees F. However, according to the U. S. Department of Agriculture food safety guidelines, such poultry dishes must be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F to kill pathogens such as campylobacter.

“Around 500 people attended the event and we are aware of a number of individuals that fell ill after consuming the chicken liver parfait,” Leigh Day attorney told the Evening Standard. “Many attendees may not have been fully aware of the source of their illness and as such the true scale of those affected remains largely unknown.”

An investigation by Public Health England found Campylobacter bacterium in the chicken liver parfait element of a pigeon breast starter.

“Campylobacter was found in samples of food and in samples from attendees at the event, and the likely source of the campylobacter was the chicken liver parfait,” the agency said. “Our health protection team sent a survey to the guests as part of the investigation. Out of 447 guests, 88 people responded and, of these, 63 met the case definition for a confirmed or probable case of Campylobacter.”

Leigh Day is also investigating a possible outbreak of Campylobacter at the Brewery involving Gather & Gather on Sept. 29. The company is no longer catering for the venue at which Earlam was infected.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

© Food Safety News