E.coli outbreak in Wales: 75 casualties

An official inquiry into the E.coli outbreak in south Wales has been announced by assembly Health Minister Brian Gibbons. It comes amid concern over the rising number of casualties - now 75.

The food poisoning first emerged a week ago and has seen more than double the normal annual caseload in Wales.

A meat supplier linked to the outbreak, John Tudor and Son of Bridgend, has been ordered to stop trading amid a Food Standards Agency investigation, BBC reports.

Announcing the inquiry on Friday, Dr Gibbons said he hoped there would not be any further increase in the number of cases in the Rhondda Cynon Taf, Merthyr Tydfil, Bridgend and Caerphilly areas.

Politicians in the south Wales valleys, including Merthyr MP Dai Havard and Rhondda AM Leighton Andrews had been demanding an assembly inquiry into the outbreak.

At lunchtime on Friday Dr Roland Salmon of the National Public Health Service confirmed the number of cases had risen overnight from 68 to 75.

He had already described the earlier rise to 68 as "dramatic and discouraging".

The majority of the cases of food poisoning involve schoolchildren, three of whom are seriously ill in hospital.

Meanwhile, an examination of the premises of Bridgend butcher John Tudor and Son - which supplies schools and council premises with food - continues, although there is no conclusive evidence that it is the source of the infection.

For the company's part, it said it had been in business for 48 years and had had no previous hygiene problems.

It is not sure when the inquiry will begin into Wales' worst outbreak of E.coli food poisoning.

In 1999 there were 13 confirmed cases of E.coli at a tourist farm park on Anglesey and in 2002 four children at a nursery in Bangor contracted the bug.

In Wales, the normal annual number of cases is 30.

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