HC Deb 18 June 1953 vol 516 cc1185-6
Mr. Shackleton

(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Health whether he will make a statement concerning the mass outbreak of food poisoning in Preston and district as a result of which deaths have occurred and it is reported that hundreds of people are ill, and whether he is satisfied with counter measures that have been taken.

The Minister of Health (Mr. Iain Macleod)

Yes, Sir. Up to last evening 734 cases of food poisoning had been notified in the present outbreak. Fifteen cases are still in hospital. There has been one death. The distribution of cases is as follows:

  • Lancashire County Districts: 511 — 10 in hospital.
  • Preston County Borough: 162 — 4 in hospital.
  • Blackpool County Borough: 60 — 1 in hospital.
  • Blackburn County Borough: 1.
The outbreak appears now to have terminated.

The source of infection was meat pies, contaminated with a virulent form of salmonella. The manufacture of these pies has been stopped and investigations are continuing to determine the manner in which this contamination occurred.

I am satisfied that all appropriate measures have been taken to control this outbreak.

Mr. Shackleton

Will the Minister urge upon all the local authorities concerned the importance of giving precise information of this kind? His statement is the first bit of solid information that has been made available to the general public. It would help to allay alarm if precise facts could be given.

Mr. Macleod

Yes, Sir. That is very helpful, and I am certain that this Question and answer will help in that regard.

Dr. Stross

As this is one of the most serious and widespread outbreaks that we have had for many years, will the Minister now use his influence, together with the Minister of Food, to ensure that the Government at last brings in the Food and Drugs Bill, which has been available for years and which would help to prevent this type of attack?

Mr. Macleod

I am very much aware of the importance of that matter. As the hon. Gentleman knows, Questions about it were recently addressed to the Minister of Food.

Mr. Amery

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the medical and hospital facilities are adequate to deal with this rather large-scale outbreak?

Mr. Macleod

Yes, Sir. The figure of 734 cases probably makes the outbreak sound rather more alarming than it is. There are 15 in hospital and there has been only one death. The facilities are quite adequate.

Dr. Broughton

Will the Minister give an assurance that the Government will do all they possibly can to encourage education in clean food handling and so raise the standard of food hygiene in this country?

Mr. Macleod

Yes, Sir. That is of the first importance. As a matter of fact, about 10 days ago I sent out most detailed instructions to all hospitals and institutions over which I have control.