Health chief sorry for E.coli farm closure delay

A top health official has personally apologised to the parents of children left seriously ill by an E. coli outbreak.

Justin McCracken, the head of the Health Protection Agency (HPA), apologised for delays after it emerged the agency received reports about the outbreak earlier than was claimed.

Mr McCracken announced yesterday that he had commissioned an independent investigation into the E. coli outbreak at Godstone Farm in Surrey. Four children remain seriously ill.

Tracy Mock, the mother of twin boys who are being treated in a London hospital, said she was pleased the HPA "had the guts" to launch the inquiry.

Initially, the HPA said that the first E. coli case had come to light on 27 August but a subsequent investigation has discovered two cases were reported the previous week.

Mr McCracken admitted the farm might have been closed sooner if this information had been taken into account earlier.