E.coli death toll rivals world's worst poisoning

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The Independent Online
The E.coli food poisoning outbreak in Scotland claimed its seventeenth victim yesterday, with the death of an elderly woman at a nursing home near Stirling.

The death toll is now only two short of the worst ever food poisoning outbreak on record, when 19 pensioners in a nursing home in Canada died in September 1985.

The woman's death, the fourth E.coli 0157-related death at the Bankview Nursing Home, was confirmed by the Forth Valley Health Board a day after publication of the interim findings of an independent scientific inquiry team. Two other elderly residents at Bankview are still ill after being infected.

Professor Hugh Pennington, of Aberdeen University, who lead the inquiry team, recommended more government funding for research into the bacterium and tough new rules on the sale of meat.

These include a licence for shops which sell cooked meat, which would be reviewed annually, and urgent action to separate raw and cooked meat on retail premises.

Some Tory MPs and the Federation of Small Businesses warn that hundreds of butchers and small shopkeepers may be forced out of business if legislation is introduced as a result of the Pennington report.

Michael Forsyth, the Secretary of State for Scotland, has said almost all the report's recommendations will be accepted by the Government. But he said the need for new legislation would be subject to a review by the Meat and Livestock Commission before the final report is published in two months.

The woman who died yesterday was described as "frail and elderly and in poor health for some time". A health board spokesman added: "She had been cared for both at Falkirk and District Royal Infirmary and at the nursing home during the past few weeks." The death is the sixth in the Forth Valley area. The last reported fatality in the E.coli 0157 outbreak was on 29 December, when a 91-year-old woman died in Monklands hospital, in Airdrie.

In Lanarkshire, the worst affected area, health board officials said 193 people were confirmed as having the infection and 317 had reported symptoms. A spokesman said three adults are still being treated at Monklands hospital and a child is receiving dialysis treatment at Glasgow's Yorkhill hospital.