We are writing to make you aware that last Wednesday (9th November 2016) sliced cooked chicken, served as part of the school meals provision, was the cause of complaints. Some kitchen staff reported that the product had an unpleasant odour when the packaging was opened. The product is supplied to the schools by an external company.
All schools were informed of the issue. The chicken was served in your child’s school as no concerns were identified with the chicken when quality checks were undertaken prior to service. As a precaution, all chicken from this supplier has been removed from the menus.
The Environmental Health Department of Caerphilly County Borough Council took samples of the affected chicken for testing. Following laboratory analysis, three of the samples of chicken were found to be contaminated with bacteria called Listeria monocytogenes.
There is an investigation on-going that is being led by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) at the production plant into the circumstances leading to the food being contaminated. The products served on the day to all the schools were from the same batch. It is not clear at this stage whether the whole batch was affected. However, those that were reported to have had an unpleasant odour were not served.
Listeria monocytogenes is a rare bacterial infection. It is unlikely to cause illness in healthy children even when they have eaten a food product that is known to be contaminated with it; very rarely it can cause mild fever and muscle aches, sometimes with diarrhoea and vomiting. Listeriosis, the illness caused by Listeria monocytogenes, is most common in older people, pregnant women, small babies and people with weakened immune systems – these groups would need to have consumed the food product themselves in order to be at risk of getting the infection. These groups can experience more severe symptoms if they become infected such as septicaemia, sudden onset of high fever, intense headache, nausea and vomiting (all these are signs of meningitis). There is no risk to family members who did not eat the school meal.
It is important to note that no illnesses linked to this incident have been reported at this time. However, it can take anywhere between 3 to 70 days for the symptoms to show following consumption of a contaminated food product. There is no test that can be undertaken to confirm whether your child has the infection or likely to develop it, prior to the start of symptoms occurring. There is also no medication that can be prescribed in advance of the development of symptoms to prevent infection.
Based on the current risk situation, the risk of getting listeriosis is very low for a vast majority of healthy children. However we wanted to bring this matter to your attention as a precaution. If your child develops any of the above symptoms over the next two months and/or you have concerns about your child’s health you should contact your health care provider (either your GP or Paediatrician) in the usual way.
If you have queries about school meals provisions you should contact Caerphilly County Borough Council’s Catering Team on 01443 864055. If you would like to discuss listeriosis or its symptoms, you can contact Public Health Wales, Health Protection Team on 01495 332219.
Mrs Heather Lewis Mr Rob Hartshorn
Consultant in Health Protection Head of Public Protection
Public Health Wales Caerphilly County Borough Council