One woman has died and 30 others have fallen ill in a suspected case of food poisoning. All of them ate their Christmas Day dinner at the same pub, the Railway in Hornchurch, Essex although no link has been proven so far.
The Health Protection Agency has launched an investigation after the Clostridium perfringens bacteria was found in samples from the woman who died and others affected by the outbreak of illness.
Dr Deborah Turbitt, director of the HPA's local Health Protection Unit, said:
"Our thoughts are with the family at this sad time. We have been working with Environmental Health Officers at Havering Council to identify the cause of illness and any links to food eaten at the venue. The venue has been co-operating fully with our investigations.
"Clostridium perfringens bacteria are the third most common cause of food poisoning in the UK and this mostly occurs in relation to red meat or poultry. Indications suggest that this outbreak is an isolated event.
"People become unwell on average after about 12 hours of eating food contaminated with Clostridium perfringens, with diarrhoea and abdominal pain being the main symptoms. The illness generally lasts no more than a few days although vulnerable groups such as very young children, elderly people, and those with underlying health problems can be more seriously affected. It is rare for a person to die as a direct result of food poisoning."
In a statement, a spokesperson for the pub, which is operated by Mitchells and Butlers under the Ember Inns brand said: "We would like to offer our sincere condolences to the family at this difficult time. The Local Authority, assisted by the Health Protection Agency, are currently investigating an alleged food poisoning outbreak at the Railway. We are fully co-operating with the Environmental Health and Health Protection Agency teams while they conduct a thorough investigation; however until the investigation is complete we can't speculate about a possible cause or source."
By Neil Gerrard
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