UK girl ‘infected by E coli at farm six months before alert

Any time there’s an outbreak of foodborne illness, and someone says, “We’ve always done things this way and never had a problem,” there is an immediate cloud of suspicion hanging over that producer or retailer.

It’s probably the worst thing someone facing a food safety crisis can say.

The Brits are particularly pissed that Godstone Farm in Surrey, a petting zoo which appears to be the source of 87 E. coli O157 illnesses, including 12 kids in hospital, stayed open as long as it did.

It’s going to get worse.

According to the Times this morning, a five-year-old girl who suffered kidney failure in March is thought to have been made ill by E coli contracted at the same farm.

Holly Nethercoat (right) was kept in an isolation unit at Great Ormond Street hospital, London for two weeks after a visit to Godstone farm in Surrey.

The story says that despite the likelihood Holly contracted the bug at the farm, it was not informed. It is not mandatory to report E coli cases to the Health Protection Agency.

The agency refused to say whether it had been told of Holly’s case. However, Jackie Flaherty, owner of Godstone farm, said:

“We absolutely haven’t heard of any cases before August.”

Great Ormond Street said “good public health practice” meant the case should have been reported to the local health protection unit but it refused to say whether it had done so in Holly’s case because of patient confidentiality.

Mark Nethercoat, Holly’s father, said,

“My daughter went to hell and back, and I can only conclude it was because something was grossly wrong with both the farm and the Health Protection Agency.”