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Farm fined £60K for E.Coli outbreak which left children hospitalised

Four of the children went on to develop the deadly Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome after the bug caused their kidneys to fail, Preston Crown Court heard.


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The case is the country’s first prosecution for an animal-related outbreak of E.coli 0157
The case is the country’s first prosecution for an animal-related outbreak of E.coli 0157

Bosses of a farm shop and restaurant have been fined £60,000 for serious failings which left four children fighting for their lives after a ‘lambing live’ event.

 

Huntley’s Country Stores in Samlesbury admitted a breach of duty of care in failing to assess the risks which led to the catastrophic E.coli outbreak following the three-week event in March and April, 2014 in which visitors were allowed to stroke and feed lambs and watch sheep give birth.

 

The case sets a precedent as the country’s first prosecution for an animal-related outbreak of E.coli 0157.

 

A total of 15 people were struck down by the killer bug – 13 of them children – with nine people needing hospital treatment. A further 15 possible cases were also recorded.

 

Four of the children went on to develop the deadly Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome after the bug caused their kidneys to fail, Preston Crown Court heard.

 

The youngsters were transferred to Manchester Children’s Hospital where they were put on dialysis. Some parents were told their children may die.

 

Despite being given numerous copies of the industry code of practice, management at Huntley’s did not follow the correct procedure to keep the event safe.

 

Errors included:

  • Allowing visitors extensive and uncontrolled access to the lambs – children were allowed to enter the animal pens and roll around in faeces-covered straw.
  • During bottle-feeding lambs were allowed to climb onto the seats, leaving them filthy and visibly soiled with faeces.
  • Animal pens had open bar gates allowing contaminated bedding to spill out onto the main visitor area.
  • Animals were densely packed, creating an environment favourable to the build-up of the bacteria.
  • Hand washing basins meant for visitors were used to clean animal feeding dishes, causing the water to be contaminated with the deadly bug.

Harry Wilson, 68, managing director of Huntley’s Country Stores, based at Huntley Gate Farm, Whalley Road, Samlesbury, pleaded guilty to a breach of duty of care to employees and visitors attending the Lambing Live event under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

 

He was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay £60,000 costs to South Ribble Borough Council.

 

After the hearing, a statement issued by Huntley’s Country Stores said: “Everyone at Huntley’s Country Stores deeply regrets that its lambing live event in 2014 resulted in the serious ill health of children and an employee.

 

“At the time of the events and following the reports of the outbreak of E.coli, the Company co-operated with South Ribble Borough Council and has accepted responsibility in Court for failings in the assessment of risks.”


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HSE guidance on decreasing risk of disease transmission

Control measures

  1. Good general cleanliness around farm
  2. Separate eating and contact areas
  3. Adequate and suitable hand washing facilities
  4. Proper instruction and training of staff
  5. Information for visitors
  6. Supervision of animal contact and hand-washing areas

For more help and advise visit the HSE website

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