Three people have died in England following an outbreak of listeria.

With the infection being in six “seriously ill” people who were admitted to hospital.

The general risk to public is currently low.

Sandwiches from The Good Food Chain have been urgently withdrawn and a red alert issued.

The company have stopped production after stopped after produce from its supplier tested positive for listeria, said a statement from Public Health England (PHE).

The supplier, North Country Cooked Meats, and distributor North Country Quality Foods have also voluntarily ceased production.

In a brief statement, North Country Cooked Meats said it was “co-operating fully” with investigations and would release further statement in due course.

Listeria was discovered in six “seriously ill” patients in hospital, three of who have since died, said PHE.

Sadly three people have died at the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust and Liverpool’s Aintree University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

No cases have been reported in Scotland or Wales with a total of six people impacted within England.

Doctor Nick Phon who is deputy director at the National Infection Service at PHE, confirmed all six cases had been discovered inside health organisations in England, and that “any risk to the public is low”.

He added: “Our thoughts are with the families of those patients who have died.

“We, along with the Food Standards Agency (FSA), colleagues in local authorities and the NHS have worked quickly to determine the likely cause of this outbreak and taken action to reduce the risk to the public’s health.”

Colin Sullivan, chief operating officer at the FSA, said the agency was working with local authorities to “minimise the risk” to patients.

He said: “The FSA will continue to investigate how the outbreak occurred and if further steps are required to protect vulnerable groups.”

What is Listeria Bacteria

Listeria bacteria is known to cause listeriosis which is a form of food poisoning which is found in unpasteurised milk and chilled foods.

It can be found in food such as Pate, types of cheese, cold meats and smoked salmon.

The bacteria is not usually dangerous for healthy adults but can cause vomiting and diarrhoea.

However those with pre-existing medical conditions and weaker immune systems can suffer more serious effects.

These are more likely to be found with pregnant women, babies and the elderly.

Aintree University Hospital said in a statement that it was made aware of “this supply chain issue” on 24 May, and had “immediately” revoked the products.

A longer statement from Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust confirmed that at least two of the six people who contracted the infection were patients at its hospital.

It added: “Although the risk of infection was extremely small, as soon as the Trust was informed of the findings of PHE’s investigation, a decision was made to remove the sandwiches that may have been affected from the patient menu as a precautionary measure, and an alternative supplier was established.”

Both hospitals have said they are working together with authorities in the ongoing investigation.

In this small outbreak there appears a cluster of cases in hospitalised patients that were already ill. Listeria can survive at refrigeration temperatures which means it can persist in food processing equipment and in the food chain.

There are usually about 166 cases of listeriosis a year in England, and on average 46 people have died of it in each of the last six years, PHE said.

NHS Digital figures show that 269 people were treated in hospital for listeriosis in 2017-18. Of them, 180 were male and 89 female. The average age was 62.

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