The food supplier linked to the listeria outbreak has been given the all clear and can restart production, as the investigation focuses elsewhere on the supply chain.
The Food Standards Agency has said following extensive testing by Stafford Borough Council, sandwich supplier the Good Food Chain is no longer part of the ongoing investigation. It voluntarily stopped operations on 5 June.
The FSA said its investigation is now focused further up the food supply chain. The Good Food Chain was supplied by North Country Quality Foods with meat from North Country Cooked Meats, which has had a positive result for the outbreak strain of listeria. Both these firms also voluntarily stopped their operations and they both remain closed.
To protect the public an enhanced set of food safety measures have been put in place at The Good Food Chain and Stafford Borough Council will continue monitoring it for the next three months.
Measures include: verification that the business meets all food safety legislation and is following best practice; a comprehensive deep-clean with environmental swabbing indicating the site is clear of potential sources of any strain of listeria monocytogenes; food hazard plan review; and enhanced oversight by the local council including additional product sampling and swabbing, and testing.
If The Good Food Chain wishes to supply the NHS again it will need to reapply for accreditation.
As part of the multi-agency response, Public Health England has been testing all recent cases of listeria to see if they are linked to the outbreak. PHE has so far tested 29 samples from people infected with listeriosis within the timeframe of the latest outbreak.
However, the number of confirmed cases linked to the outbreak remains at nine. Symptoms began in the confirmed cases between 20 April and 2 June and have been traced to the affected products eaten in hospital. No cases linked to this outbreak have been found in people outside of the hospital setting.
Nick Phin, PHE deputy director at the national infection service, said the agency was, “carrying out a thorough genomic analysis of all listeriosis cases reported in England and can confirm that so far, there are no further cases linked to this outbreak across the UK.
“Our investigations continue and the public should be reassured that the risk to the public continues to be low.”
FSA chief operating officer Colin Sullivan said: “This is a complex investigation, but we have worked to swiftly identify and remove from the food chain the products linked to these hospital cases.
“Our investigations are now focused on where the outbreak strain originated from and subject to strict verification and ongoing monitoring by Stafford Borough Council, The Good Food Chain company is now able to restart production.”