HC Deb 24 July 1967 vol 751 cc29-31
13. Dr. Reginald Bennett

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works what organisms have been isolated from the foods served at Lancaster House on the occasion of the reception for the Italian Prime Minister; what foods were found to be contaminated with these virulent salmonella group organisms; why they were contaminated; and what steps he is taking to ensure a proper standard of hygiene in the future.

Mr. Prentice

I am informed by the Medical Officer of Health of the City of Westminster that salmonella typhimurium organisms were found in mayonnaise served at the reception. There is no conclusive evidence to show how the organisms got into the mayonnaise.

Following urgent investigations, the standard of hygiene of the caterers concerned has been found satisfactory. Public health inspectors have also visited all premises where food for Government receptions is prepared or consumed and have found all these premises satisfactory.

I should like to take this opportunity to express my regret that a number of people, including four of our Italian guests, were taken ill. Perhaps I should add that I can find no trace of any similar incident since the Government Hospitality Fund was set up in 1921.

Dr. Bennett

While it must be difficult to apportion blame, is it not very likely to be, as reported in some quarters, that some three-day-old mayonnaise was being re-served and taken in and out of the refrigerator, which, in hot weather, is an appalling breach of public health standards? Is it not a fact that the organism may have reached here is some imported frozen liquid egg which was probably diluted with ducks' eggs, which are full of this type of infection, because numbers of the guests seem to have been infected with live organisms?

Mr. Prentice

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would let me have any evidence he has to that effect. I am advised that hens' eggs rather than ducks' eggs are generally used in mayonnaise and there is no conclusive evidence that they or, indeed, any other element in making the mayonnaise were responsible. We have considered the investigations made of the standards of hygiene in the premises of the caterers concerned and the inspection has given them a completely clean bill of health.

Mr. Kitson

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what arrangements he is making so that the people infected can be tested to see whether they are still carriers of the disease? This type of salmonella typhimurium organism is very dangerous and we may now be carriers.

Mr. Prentice

I am advised that, normally, the effects last only five to seven days, so i think the hon. Gentleman's suggestion comes a little late.

Sir W. Bromley-Davenport

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, some years ago, I had correspondence with his Department on this point? Is he further aware that to remove salmonella poisoning from an egg it has to be boiled, and hard-boiled for seven to eight minutes? How can one hard-boil an egg to make mayonnaise?

Mr. Prentice

I was not aware of the correspondence to which the hon. Gentleman refers. But raw eggs are used by housewives in many kinds of cooking—the icing on cakes and so on. I am advised that occurrences of poisoning are very rare and are not necessarily connected with eggs. There is no conclusive evidence on this point.