Coroner returns verdict in Mason’s 2005 E. coli O157 death

BBC is reporting that the coroner at the inquest into a five-year-old boy who died in an E. coli outbreak in south Wales has recommended stronger enforcement of food hygiene laws, but would not back a verdict of manslaughter by gross negligence.

David Bowen said Mason Jones, from Deri near Bargoed, died after eating infected meat prepared with disregard for good food hygiene.

About 160 people became ill in the 2005 outbreak – the UK’s second largest.

The two-day inquest in Newport heard that butcher William John Tudor, 58, of Cowbridge, Vale of Glamorgan, had sold rotten meat for years, and that the butcher was aware of the risks he was taking using the same equipment for cooked and uncooked meats.

One vacuum packer was used for packaging raw and cooked meats supplied to schools and care homes across south Wales.

Sounds like manslaughter to me, but Mr Bowen disagreed.

"I have agonised over a verdict of unlawful killing but despite substantial, some might say horrific, breaches of food hygiene regulations the evidence is not strong enough. There is little doubt Mason was owed a duty of care and a catalogue of failures to observe basic food hygiene breached that duty. But it is not enough for there to be a breach of the duty of care, however extensive and reprehensible that may be."

Mason’s mother Sharon Mills, a police community support officer, who now campaigns for food safety, wept as the verdict was returned.