Manchester Royal Infirmary
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Tragic Fatalities at Manchester Royal Infirmary Linked to Listeria-Contaminated Chicken Sandwiches

In a heart-wrenching incident at Manchester Royal Infirmary, two patients succumbed to illnesses believed to be caused by listeria-contaminated chicken sandwiches they consumed while hospitalized. The inquest into this somber matter has cast a spotlight on a potential national listeria outbreak, implicating pre-prepared food items and stirring concerns beyond the hospital’s premises.

Beverley Sowah, aged 57, and 84-year-old Enid Heap, both of whom were battling pre-existing health conditions, tragically passed away shortly after consuming chicken mayonnaise sandwiches served to them during their stay at the hospital in 2019. Their deaths have prompted an exhaustive investigation to unravel the source of the listeria contamination, a bacteria known to cause the severe infection listeriosis, particularly dangerous to individuals with compromised immune systems.

Sowah, a retired nurse grappling with advanced breast cancer, was admitted to the hospital on April 15, 2019, and consumed the implicated sandwich two days later, leading to her demise on April 26. Heap, a mother of five, encountered a similar fate after being served the sandwich on April 18, following her admission on March 25; she died on May 6. The coroner’s court heard poignant testimonials about their lives and the circumstances leading to their untimely deaths, accompanied by the first public release of their photographs since the tragedy.

The investigation has traced the source of the listeria to an external food supplier, exonerating the hospital’s own kitchen facilities. The scrutiny has extended to North Country Quality Food in Salford, the chicken supplier, and the Good Food Chain in Staffordshire, the entity responsible for producing the sandwiches. Both companies have ceased operations in the wake of the incident. The Good Food Chain was known for its extensive production, crafting up to 40,000 sandwiches daily for about 70 hospitals from its “Whole lotta Good” range.

The coroner overseeing the joint inquest, Zak Golombeck, underscored the gravity of the situation, noting the suspected link between the fatalities and listeriosis, a condition mandated to be reported. Golombeck highlighted that the chicken sandwiches are the primary suspects in the transmission of the infection to both victims. Further, the listeria strain identified in Manchester bears a genetic similarity to another outbreak in Liverpool, suggesting a wider public health concern.

The inquest, set to unfold over the span of up to five days, seeks to offer closure to the bereaved families and possibly avert such tragedies in the future by addressing the risks associated with listeria contamination in food products served in healthcare settings.

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