Charges over listeria outbreak

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The hospital no longer provides chilled pre-cooked meats to patients. Photo / File
The hospital no longer provides chilled pre-cooked meats to patients. Photo / File

Charges have been laid against a Napier company connected with a listeria outbreak at Hawke's Bay Hospital last year.

Two elderly patients at Hawke's Bay Hospital died last year after eating meat contaminated with listeria.

During an investigation traces of listeria were found in some of the company's products, including pre-packaged meats supplied to the hospital, and were recalled last July.

The Ministry for Primary Industries confirmed yesterday that charges under the Food Act had been laid but would not confirm the name of the company or what exactly the charges were.

A spokesperson said the charges were laid on May 6 and did not relate to causing the death of any person.

The spokesperson confirmed the company was to appear in Napier District Court later this month but would not make any further comment.

The company charged did not respond when contacted yesterday.

The two women, one in her 60s and one in her 80s, were both "immune comprised" when they became ill, Hawke's Bay District Health Board Director of Population Health Dr Caroline McElnay said at the time.

The women died in June and July respectively.

Two other patients also contracted the illness between May and June last year but recovered.

Dr McElnay said it was "really, really unusual" to have four cases within a period of two months and that the most likely source was food.

Hawke's Bay District Health Board chief executive Kevin Snee said yesterday they had worked closely with the families involved as well as the Ministry for Primary Industries to ensure such an event did not happen again.

Mr Snee said the hospital no longer provided chilled pre-cooked meats to patients.

"HBDHB kitchens now cook the meat that will be used as cold meat, and it has developed a policy that gives guidance to help nursing staff identify patients that need a special diet that eliminates foods which have a listeria risk."

Listeria bacterium causes a serious illness called listeriosis, which can be dangerous for pregnant women, their children, the elderly and anyone with an already weakened immune system.

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