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News Q&A

Listeria outbreak: Hancock orders review of hospital food after deaths

BMJ 2019; 365 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l4262 (Published 18 June 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;365:l4262
  1. Nigel Hawkes
  1. London

Matt Hancock, health and social care secretary for England, has called for a “root and branch” review of food in the NHS after an outbreak of listeria led to five deaths among hospital patients. Nigel Hawkes reports

Is Hancock’s response proportionate?

Almost certainly not. While any deaths from food poisoning merit immediate and careful investigation, these cases do not cast doubt on the whole NHS food chain. Hancock’s reaction may have had something to do with his bid for the leadership of the Conservative Party, though he has since withdrawn his candidacy.

How exceptional are these deaths?

Between 2010 and 2016 an average of 46 people a year died from listeriosis in England and Wales, and an average of 166 cases a year were detected. Many more people than this would have been infected, but in healthy people the infection is either unnoticed or causes very mild illness.

What caused this outbreak?

Sliced meat from a company …

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