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Enforcement of science—using a Clostridium perfringens outbreak investigation to take legal action

17 Oct 2016


Abstract
Background

We report an outbreak of Clostridium perfringens in a care home in North East England.

Methods

A retrospective cohort study was used to investigate this outbreak. Faecal samples were obtained from symptomatic residents. Environmental Health Officers carried out a food hygiene inspection and formal statements were taken.

Results

Fifteen residents reported illness and the epidemic curve was suggestive of a point source outbreak. Results suggest that illness was associated with consumption of mince & vegetable pie and/or gravy. There were a number of issues with food served, in particular the mince products had been cooked, cooled, reheated and served again over a period of several days. Faecal sampling revealed the presence of C.perfringens enterotoxin gene and four samples were indistinguishable by fluorescent amplified fragment length polymorphism, indicating a likely common source. The operator of the home was charged with three offences under the General Food Regulations 2004 and the Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006 and was convicted on all counts.

Conclusions

An outbreak of C.perfringens occurred in a care home. The likely cause was consumption of mince & vegetable pie and/or gravy. Epidemiological evidence can be used to help prosecute businesses with food safety offences in such circumstances.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Journal of Public Health