Three people have died in England from listeriosis with a link to eating pre-made sandwiches.

Cases of Listeria infection were in six hospital patients in England. There have been no cases reported in Scotland or Wales. Sandwiches and salads linked to the sick people have been withdrawn and the supplier, The Good Food Chain, has voluntarily ceased production while the investigation continues.

The patients died at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust and Aintree University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in Liverpool.

Public Health England (PHE), the Food Standards Agency (FSA), Public Health Wales (PHW), Food Standards Scotland (FSS), Health Protection Scotland (HPS) and some local authorities are investigating the source of Listeria infections linked to pre-packed sandwiches.

“We, along with the FSA, colleagues in local authorities and the NHS have worked quickly to determine the likely cause of this outbreak and taken action to reduce the risk to the public’s health,” said Nick Phin, deputy director at the National Infection Service at PHE. “To date, there have been no associated cases identified outside healthcare organizations, and any risk to the public is low.”

Outbreak strain identified
The Good Food Chain was supplied with meat produced by North Country Cooked Meats and testing found a positive result for the outbreak strain of Listeria. This company and North Country Quality Foods who they distribute through, have voluntarily stopped production.

Sandwiches and salads affected are not being produced while investigations continue and products were withdrawn from hospitals when the link to the Listeria infections was identified.

There are an average 166 cases of listeriosis in England and Wales annually based on numbers from 2008 to 2018. There was an average of 46 deaths in per year in 2010 to 2016.

Dr Colin Sullivan, chief operating officer at the FSA, said: “We have taken action along with local authorities to minimise the risk based on the evidence so far. The FSA will continue to investigate how the outbreak occurred and if further steps are required to protect vulnerable groups.”

Listeriosis is an infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. The infection is most likely to sicken pregnant women and their newborns, adults aged 65 or older, and people with weakened immune systems.

Symptoms include fever, muscle pain, septicemia and meningitis. The incubation period is usually one to two weeks but can vary between a few days and up to 90 days.

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