It only takes a few germs...

It only needs a small contamination of E.coli on meat to have lethal consequences, Professor Hugh Pennington told meat processors at the BMPA conference.

Pennington said E.coli was a bug peculiar to the UK, and rarely found elsewhere. He said that even a low dose of the bug can lead to an infection which could prove fatal.

He highlighted the catalogue of failures that allowed the South Wales outbreak to claim the life of five-year-old Mason Jones. He pointed out that, as far back as 1994, a hygiene score of just 11 out of 100 was awarded to the abattoir at the heart of the case and it was recommended for closure. But Pennington said he was unable to determine why it had not closed.

And he warned the sector that E.coli had not gone away and would remain a challenge.