E.coli O157 & Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome

Welsh butcher pleads guilty

14th September 2007

William Tudor, 54, from Cowbridge, Vale of Glamoganr has been jailed for a year for food safety offences which led to a fatal E.coli outbreak in 2005. Tudor admitted six charges, including supplying contaminated meat from his meat business in Bridgend and the court heard his premises failed to guard against the risk of cross-contamination. Judge Neil Bidder said that while Tudor was a pillar of society he had substantial culpability and a custodial sentence would send out a message to other food producers. He told Tudor that he put the health of the public at risk for the sake of saving money.

Tudor's business, John Tudor and Son, had a contract to supply cooked meats for school dinners at primary schools across south Wales. Within days of the contaminated cooked meat being delivered in September 2005, a number of pupils fell ill with symptoms of diarrhoea. It developed into the UK's second largest outbreak and Tudor's plant was closed down.

Cardiff Crown Court heard that a vacuum-packing machine, "wrongly used" for both raw and cooked meats, was the source of contaminated meat to schools. "There was blood on the trays and workers were having to wipe it off while they were packing cooked meat. "One employee said he was told by Tudor not to use the vacpacker for cooked meat whenever food inspectors were visiting."

Health inspectors found "fundamental failures" in cleaning, including congealed debris and dirt on the vacpacker. "Tudor was asked how it was cleaned and he produced a dirty brush and bucket." Prosecutor Graham Walters said: "There was a simple failure to guard against the risk of cross contamination. Cleaning was inadequate."

The conclusion of criminal proceedings linked to the outbreak in South Wales means that the Public Inquiry is now free to complete its task. Set up by the National Assembly after the outbreak in September 2005, the Inquiry's progress has been affected by the police investigation into the death of Mason Jones and subsequently by the prosecution brought by the local authorities.

Professor Hugh Pennington, the Chairman of the Inquiry, said: "I had hoped that the Inquiry could start its hearings before the end of this year. Unfortunately, the time taken for the local authority proceedings to reach their conclusion means that this isn't possible. The Inquiry is moving forward as quickly as possible but has to obtain evidence from a substantial number of people that could not be approached until now. Although this is a considerable task in itself, it is already in hand and I now expect the Inquiry's hearings to start in February. I am committed to getting to the bottom of matters surrounding the outbreak. The Inquiry has always had an important role to play by undertaking a thorough investigation, by making the facts available to the public, and by making recommendations to prevent such an outbreak from happening again.

I will ensure that the public gets answers to questions about the outbreak and issues around it, particularly those individuals and families who were affected by it. However, it is essential that all the facts are obtained before conclusions are drawn.

Five year old Mason Jones died in hospital two weeks after eating the contaminated ham and turkey at his school canteen and 157 others were infected. After sentencing Masons mum, Sharon Mills, said life without her son was "...unbearable. I just can't believe he died from a school dinner!"

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