20 March 2009 | Martha McKenzie-Minifie
A newly published inquiry into the fatal E.coli outbreak in Wales in 2005 has criticised buying deals made to supply meat for school dinners.
The investigation, chaired by Professor Hugh Pennington and released yesterday, examined the circumstances that led to the outbreak that killed five-year-old Mason Jones and left more than 150 others, many of them pupils, at 44 schools, ill.
Pennington said schools were supplied with meat by John Tudor & Son under a contract with four councils but the process by which the contracts were awarded in 1998 and 2002 was at fault in relation to food safety. He said there was a lack of clear and agreed roles and responsibilities between organisations and key individuals.
"The system for contract monitoring was not operated properly and the system for recording complaints was seriously flawed," said Pennington, a microbiologist.
The Welsh Assembly inquiry made 24 recommendations in a range of areas, including food safety and food hygiene.
Pennington said the four local authorities had already made substantial changes to procurement systems and procedures after the outbreak. He added that several public bodies used a Value Wales initiative, which included arrangements for information sharing between organisations.
"However, I am recommending that all businesses contracting with public bodies for the supply of high-risk foods, such as raw and cooked meats, must be subject to independent food hygiene audits."
John Tudor & Son proprietor William Tudor was jailed after pleading guilty to seven food hygiene offences.