Campaign to toughen up food safety

Suspected cases of poisoning still on increase in Britain's worst outbreak
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The Independent Online
The Government last night announced a major pounds 500,000 food safety campaign as the number of suspected cases in Britain's worst E-coli outbreak continued to rise.

More than 180 people have now shown signs of the food poisoning which is sweeping across central Scotland and has claimed the lives of five pensioners. Lanarkshire is worst hit, with 155 suspected cases, and a special clinic has been set up in Wishaw to deal with the growing numbers.

More than 200 patients have been screened and yesterday 11 more people were found to be infected with E-coli 0157 - the bacteria responsible for the outbreak - bringing the confirmed number of cases in Lanarkshire to 73.

In neighbouring Forth Valley, health officials said 21 people are showing symptoms with 13 already confirmed as sufferers.

A 60-year-old woman remains "critical" at Glasgow Royal Infirmary and three young children are receiving kidney dialysis at Glasgow's Yorkhill Hospital At Monklands Hospital, Airdrie, 24 adults and four children are being treated, with the conditions of nine adults giving doctors "cause for concern", a hospital spokesman said.

Strathclyde Police are using specialised computer equipment in a joint investigation with North Lanarkshire Council environmental services. This is a separate investigation from the probe conducted by a team of experts led by Aberdeen University Professor Hugh Pennington, which was announced by the Government last Thursday.

The police will use the hi-tech Home Office Large Major Enquiry System (Holmes) to co-ordinate the inquiry as the basis of reports to the regional procurator fiscal at Hamilton, Frank Crowe.

They will interview people involved in the scare, including John Barr, whose award-winning Wishaw butcher's shop is at the centre of the poison scare.

"It is not uncommon for the Holmes computer system to be brought in to assist officers investigating multiple deaths which may be linked," said Superintendent Iain Gordon, of Strathclyde Police.

Dr Martin Donaghy, consultant in public health at Lanarkshire Health Board, said the outbreak has already cost trusts a "considerable sum". Yet he announced the board would "find the money" for a major advertising campaign to help reduce the risk of food poisoning.

Saturday Story, page 16