E.coli inquiry under way
Published:  12 February, 2008

A public inquiry into the 2005 E.coli outbreak that left a five-year-old boy dead is underway.

The inquiry is being led by Professor Hugh Pennington, a microbiologist, who chaired the investigation into the Lanarkshire E.coli outbreak of 1996, and was set up by the Welsh assembly. It is expected to last six weeks.

Professor Pennington will examine more than 36,000 pages of evidence and will listen to environmental health officers who were responsible for inspecting the premises of butcher William Tudor, who was jailed last year for supplying contaminated meat. The outbreak affected 44 schools, all of which were supplied by Tudor. Susan Mills, the mother of the five-year-old Mason Jones who died, is also expected to give evidence.

William Tudor, from Crowbridge, South Wales, was jailed for 12 months in September last year, after admitting six counts of placing unsafe food on the market and one count of failing, as a proprietor of a business, to protect food against the risk of contamination. He is not expected to give evidence at the inquiry.

Professor Pennington said: "The conclusion last September of the criminal proceedings linked to the outbreak freed the inquiry to complete its task.

"My team has collected a substantial volume of evidence and the hearings will provide even more. I will hear from a wide range of witnesses, but the fact that certain evidence is not dealt with at the hearings does not mean that I regard it as irrelevant or that I give it less weight than other evidence. I will consider all evidence in my report."

The inquiry will be investigating the source of the outbreak, the inspection of food businesses, the procurement of school meals, and the way the outbreak was managed.