The Wrexham County Borough Council is apparently going get to the bottom of a troubling question.

How did a “chippy bar,” which sells fish and chips boiled in oil and then served up with salt and vinegar come to infect four of its customers with E. coli O157:H7, a bacteria usually associated with ground beef?

Unfortunately for the Llay Fish Bar in Llay getting such questions answered means it is going to face prosecution.  The Wrexham Council cannot talk about the incident because to do so might prejudice any legal proceedings.

However, Toni Slater, public protection service manger for the council, said: “A file is currently being prepared with a view to the institution of legal proceedings following the outbreak and the inspection of the premises.”

The fish bar was closed briefly after four people became ill with E. coli O157, but it has since re-opened.  The investigation found the chip shop was the most likely source of the outbreak.

Slater says the fish bar has been inspected on numerous occasions and is in compliance with legal standards.

Wrexham’s Karen Morrisroe-Clutton, 32, and her four-year-old daughter, Abigail Hennessy, were both hospitalized after eating at the fish bar.  Two others who did not require hospitalization were the other reported victims of the outbreak that occurred in late July. 

While Abigail was released weeks earlier, her mother stayed in the Wrexham Maelor hospital for 67 days, including five weeks in a coma.  Her recovery has seen her through seizures, kidney failure, and the medically induced coma.  Her husband played tapes of their ten-week-old baby, which she credits with making her want to wake up.

Ramazan Aslan, who owns the fish bar, continues to say there is no proof his restaurant was the cause of the illnesses.  “Nobody knows where it came from,” he says. “They can’t say, ‘I got E. coli from the Llay Fish Bar.’  The council took samples and didn’t find anything from the shop.  We are clean.  I don’t know why they just blame the Llay Fish Bar.”

The British have enjoyed their “chip shops” since 1860.   Today, they cannot just sell “fish and chips,” but must identify the species being sold.   “Cod and Chips” and “Haddock and Chips” are common menu items.   The fish is covered in a batter or breadcrumbs and the potatoes (the chips) are slab-cut.  Both are fried, usually in vegetable or peanut oils or just plain lard.   Salt and vinegar are the accompaniments.  

Generally speaking, you are not going to find any lettuce, tomatoes or spinach at a chippy.