Hospital chicken sandwich link to listeria deaths, inquest hears

13 March 2024 by
Hospital chicken sandwich link to listeria deaths, inquest hears

Two women died after eating chicken mayonnaise sandwiches suspected of containing listeria at Manchester Royal Infirmary, an inquest heard.

Retired Jamaican nurse Beverley Sowah, 57, and mother of five Enid Heap, 84, were given the sandwiches on successive days while they were patients at the hospital in 2019.

Both women, who had underlying ill health conditions, died days later during a nationwide alert over the listeria outbreak.

The source of the bacteria was linked to an external food supplier, not the kitchens at the hospital, Manchester Coroner's Court heard.

A joint inquest for both women, with a jury of five men and two women, began on Monday and is scheduled to last up to five days.

Also present are lawyers for North Country Quality Food, based in Salford, which supplied the chicken to the Good Food Chain, which made the sandwiches as part of its "Whole Lotta Good" range, supplied to hospitals via a contract with Sodexo.

Both the meat supplier and sandwich maker have since gone into liquidation.

The Good Food Chain, based in Stone, Staffordshire, made up to 40,000 sandwiches a day, supplying around 70 hospitals.

Listeria can cause an illness called listeriosis, which can be fatal for people with weakened immune systems.

In opening remarks at the start of the hearing, Zak Golombeck, Manchester city coroner, said, "This case concerns the deaths of two individuals, for whom there is reason to suspect they died of a notifiable disease, namely listeria."

Sowah was admitted to Manchester Royal Infirmary on 15 April 2019 suffering from advanced breast cancer. She was given the chicken mayonnaise sandwich two days later, and died on 26 April.

There was no evidence of sub-optimal care, apart from the "hospital-acquired" listeria infection.

Heap, a retired chemist shop assistant, was admitted to Manchester Royal Infirmary on 25 March 2019 and was served the same type of sandwich on 18 April. She died on 6 May.

Golombeck said the primary hypothesis of the source of the listeria infection was the chicken sandwiches consumed by both women.

The hearing was told the Manchester listeria outbreak had the same genetic link as another outbreak in Liverpool.

Dr Kirsty Dodgson, consultant microbiologist at the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Manchester Royal Infirmary, said in a statement a number of outbreak meetings were held to identify the source of the listeria and the Health and Safety Executive and Public Health England became involved.

She said it became a nationwide investigation due to other listeria cases in other locations across the country.

The inquest continues.

Photo: AC Manley/Shutterstock

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