A sixth person has died in a Listeria outbreak linked to sandwiches in the United Kingdom.

The patient was one of the nine previously confirmed infections and there are no new cases of listeriosis linked to the outbreak, according to Public Health England.

The recently identified person is thought to have acquired listeriosis from Good Food Chain products while at S.t Richard’s Hospital in Chichester, which is part of the Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Western Sussex was one of 43 hospital trusts across England that was supplied with pre-packed sandwiches and salads by the Good Food Chain.

All patients developed Listeria infection in England between April 20 and June 2. People ate contaminated chicken sandwiches in hospitals before a product withdrawal on May 25.

“Patient safety is always our absolute priority and as soon as we were informed we may have received contaminated chicken sandwiches from the Good Food Chain we removed all products from our hospitals. Since then, we have had no further listeriosis infections reported to us and we want to reassure our patients, visitors and staff that the risk remains very low,” said Dr. Maggie Davies, Western Sussex Hospitals’ chief nurse and director of Infection Prevention and Control.

A multi-agency team is continuing to investigate listeriosis linked to sandwiches and salads. Public Health England has tested 34 samples of Listeria to check if they are part of the outbreak and so far none are linked to it.

No listeriosis infections linked to the outbreak have been confirmed in people outside hospital settings so risk to the public is low, according to Public Health England.

Three firms placed into liquidation
Sandwich producer the Good Food Chain had been told in late June it could restart operations by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) but the company went into liquidation.

The outbreak strain was found in meat produced by North Country Cooked Meats. The firm and their distributor North Country Quality Foods, voluntarily stopped distribution on June 3 and withdrew all ready-to-eat items.

In late July, North Country Quality Foods and North Country Cooked Meats were placed into liquidation and both companies ceased trading immediately.

The move follows a period of voluntary closure and will mean 46 jobs will be lost. The two companies had been unable to trade since June 3 due to the outbreak investigation.

The outbreak strain had not been discovered at the factory and the investigation was extended to examine the businesses supply chain, according to a company statement.

North Country Quality Foods was incorporated in February 1977 and had 16 employees. North Country Cooked Meats began in March 1983 and had 30 staff.

The main activity of the group was production and distribution of wholesale cooked and pre-packed meats. Liquidation will be handled by Duff & Phelps.

Keep Our NHS Public had called for an end to outsourcing of catering. It wants the reinstatement of hospital kitchens, staffed by NHS employees that can provide the hot meals and specialized diets needed by patients.

“If we want to avoid more tragedies like this listeria outbreak, we must reverse the current approach to food provision for patients,” said Pete Gillard, executive committee member of Keep Our NHS Public.

Previously, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock said there would be a review of hospital food and government would work with the Hospital Caterers Association.

The time between exposure to Listeria and development of illness can be up to 70 days. Symptoms of infection can include vomiting, nausea, persistent fever, muscle aches, severe headache and neck stiffness.

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