Health secretary Matt Hancock has ordered a “root and branch review” of hospital food after five patient deaths were linked to an outbreak of listeria.
Hancock said: “I have been incredibly concerned by this issue and strongly believe that we need a radical new approach to the food that is served in our NHS.
“Staff, patients and families deserve so much better – our NHS should be at the forefront of supporting people to make healthy choices.
“I have instructed the NHS to conduct a root and branch review of hospital food.”
Last week Public Health England confirmed that two further deaths had been linked to the outbreak, taking the total to five.
The outbreak is believed to have started in meat used in pre-packaged sandwiches and salads linked to supplier the Good Food Chain. While the outbreak was confirmed on 7 June, the first instances were identified in May – prompting the immediate withdrawal of the brand’s products and the voluntary ceasing of all its operations.
Public Health England has said all individuals affected consumed the products before their withdrawal on 25 May 2019. It added that the Good Food Chain had been supplied with meat produced by North Country Cooked Meats, which subsequently produced a positive test result for the outbreak strain of listeria. North County Cooked Meats and North Country Quality Foods who it distributes through, have also voluntarily ceased production.
Dr Nick Phin of Public Health England said: “To date, there have been no patients linked to this incident outside healthcare organisations, but we continue to investigate. Swift action was taken to protect patients and any risk to the public is low. PHE is continuing to analyse all recent and ongoing samples of listeria from hospital patients to understand whether their illness is linked to this outbreak.”