Avanti West Coast implements menu changes after E.Coli outbreak

Posted on - 9th April, 2024 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Business, Health, Preston Council, Preston News, Transport
An Avanti West Coast train
An Avanti West Coast train

The train company that provided food as part of meals that contributed significantly to the E.Coli outbreak in December has been forced to make changes to its menus. 

Avanti West Coast has removed all unpasteurised cheese from its menus after at least 16 people became ill after eating in a first class carriage on their service, Blog Preston has learned. 

The investigation into an E.Coli outbreak that led to food product recalls, dozens of people being infected and one person from Scotland dying continues. That investigation is now confirmed to not include Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese, who have been told no further formal action will be taken after Preston City Council concluded its portion of the investigation.

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The train company acted to remove the recalled products from menus in first class. They have also said they will not be serving products with unpasteurised milk in future. 

Blog Preston understands that while customers in first class are asked by onboard staff if they have any dietary requirements or allergies, the menu is only accessible online and physical copies are not made available unless requested. People who are pregnant, as well other portions of the population who may be vulnerable, are urged to avoid products with unpasteurised milk. 

Mrs Kirkham’s cheese was supplied to Avanti via Harvey & Brockless, a specialist wholesaler. Other Mrs Kirkham’s products were sold or supplied to over 400 businesses in the weeks leading to the incident. The wider investigation, carried out by the Food Standards Agency in partnership with dozens of local authorities and other bodies, was able to speak with 17 people who became infected, and 16 of them had consumed unpasteurised cheese served as part of a charcuterie platter onboard a train. 

Jane Rawling, Head of Incidents at the Food Standards Agency told Blog Preston: “We continue to work in partnership with multi-agencies to monitor the situation as part of our routine operations and we are working to ensure people are aware of our guidance on labelling, so that consumers are presented with the information they need to make informed decisions about the food they eat.”

An Avanti West Coast spokesperson told Blog Preston: “As with any food product recall, the specified items which are served or sold to customers are removed from the menu immediately.”

Last month, we reported that the Food Standards Agency had concluded there was a ‘proven link’ between Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese Ltd, which operates in Goosnargh, and the outbreak. This remains the case, but it is the procedures the business has in place, along with a willingness to help the investigation, that mean no further action is necessary.

At least 36 cases of e.coli were confirmed during the outbreak. 15 people were admitted to hospital and one person, from Scotland, developed haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) and died.

Mrs Kirkham’s cleared

Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese, which operates in Goosnargh, was at the centre of the outbreak after being forced to recall a number of its produced on December 24, 2023 over e.coli fears. 

Preston City Council was contacted by the Food Standards Agency on December 22 regarding a number of cases caused by the same type of bacteria – the e.coli strain in question. 

Because it is an offence to produce food that is ‘injurious to health’, Preston City Council has the powers to consider formal actions against the business. It is also possible that they recommend a criminal investigation. 

The environmental health officer said that Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese was keen to assist its investigation and it was found that there was a high level of compliance with the law. 

Although the Food Standards Agency confirmed the presence of E.Coli on site which were linked directly with those found in patients during the outbreak, thus establishing their ‘proven link’, and some improvements have been suggested and implemented, Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese was found to have no intention to cause illness and to not have acted recklessly. 

The business followed its own in-house procedures, which were compliant with legislation, and hygiene practices were found to have gone ‘well-beyond’ the legal requirement. 

Preston City Council’s environmental health officer told Blog Preston: “In this instance, no formal action has been taken by Preston City Council.  

“The cheesemaker achieved high standards of hygiene, did not act recklessly or with intent to cause harm, and cooperated fully throughout the investigation.”

Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese was approached for comment.

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