E.coli butcher 'sold rotten meat for years'
Tuesday 23 November 2010
A butcher at the centre of a fatal E.coli outbreak which claimed the life of a five-year-old boy sold rotten meat for years before the tragedy, an inquest heard today.
Mason Jones, of Deri, near Bargoed, lost his life to the deadly food poisoning bug which struck 44 schools in the South Wales valleys.
The outbreak, in September 2005, had become the second biggest to hit the UK by the time it ran its course.
Mason's mother Sharon Mills sobbed repeatedly today at the inquest into his death in Newport.
The coroner's court also got an insight into chronically lax hygiene practices at the butcher business which triggered the outbreak.
John Tudor and Son, based at Bridgend Industrial Estate, supplied meat to dozens of schools and residential homes for the elderly.
Company boss and owner William John Tudor, 58, of Cowbridge, South Wales, was jailed for one year at Cardiff Crown Court in September 2007.
Tudor admitted six counts of placing unsafe food on the market and one of failing to protect food against the risk of contamination.
The inquest today heard he habitually lied to the authorities about his practices and falsified records - two months at a time.
His underhand practices were so habitual he literally used to pass off mutton as lamb to his customers.
Detective Superintendent Paul Burke headed a criminal inquiry after the firm was pinpointed as the source of the outbreak.
He said staff at the firm were interviewed about hygiene standards during the inquiry.
"A number of people told me in interview about meat that was smelling or poor and when brought to Mr Tudor's attention they were told to put it in the faggots," he said.
"When meat was turning yellow they were told to 'mince it up' and put it in the faggots."
The idea being that because faggots were spicy they would hide the taste of the meat.
He added: "Mutton was literally passed off as lamb."
The firm would buy frozen New Zealand mutton and sell it on to customers as Welsh lamb.
False batch numbers linking it to a legitimate farm in Abergavenny were used to hide its origin.
He said that according to staff at the firm, disregard for hygiene rules had gone on for years.
It was not known whether any of the affected schools ever received the faggots or mutton.
Equally, it was not possible to tell whether the factory had caused other E.coli or food poisoning outbreaks in the past.
He said Tudor was well aware of safe hygiene practice because he had successfully sat a grade three hygiene diploma in 2002.
But some staff members were found to have never attended even basic hygiene courses, despite the need to do so.
It was also found his factory's only vacuum packing machine was "not fit for purpose" and was used for both raw and cooked meats.
A "dirty old brush and container of water" was used to clean the machine between different users; often it was not cleaned at all.
Cooked and raw meats were stored together and decomposing meat was discovered in a fridge section at the factory.
Meat seized from the operation was found to contain an identical E.coli O157 strain as the one that killed Mason.
The same strain was found at a Welsh farm where the meat originated and an abattoir where Tudor bought the meat.
Mr Burke stressed that a certain percentage of healthy cattle carry the strain of E.coli without harm to them.
But the fact it could prove deadly to people, particularly children and elderly, underlined why basic hygiene was necessary.
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