Listeria: Contaminated Sandwiches

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:39 pm on 17th June 2019.

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Photo of Philippa Whitford Philippa Whitford Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Health and Social Care) 4:39 pm, 17th June 2019

I, too, would like to express our sympathies with the families of the five patients who lost their lives, but also the four who remain critically ill. Obviously, we do not know what outcome they face.

As the shadow health spokesperson highlighted, these sandwiches were sold to 43 trusts, and while there have been no cases since 25 May, the incubation period of listeriosis is 70 days, so will surveillance of those 43 trusts continue alongside the Health Secretary’s investigation?

The Food Standards Agency published a report in 2014 about the dangers of hospital food. It cited 32 failures, including sandwiches spending hours outside fridges, and fridges often not being cold enough. Indeed, it has been highlighted that hospital sandwiches have been the commonest source of listeria outbreaks over the past two decades.

As the Health Secretary says, simple cases are often a matter of people being unwell for a few days, but listeria poses a major threat to pregnant women, who may lose their child, and is life-threatening for people who are already ill. Will the Health Secretary therefore pay particular attention in his review to why on earth people who were seriously ill or frail were being fed sandwiches? Someone who has no appetite and is recovering from illness is simply not going to be tempted by a pack of sandwiches. That really makes the case for bringing food preparation in-hospital and producing tempting meals, because nutrition is critical to recovery.