‘My five-year-old son died with E. coli after eating infected meat at school. He would have been 21 this year’

I’m sorry I missed this story in Wales Online from Sept. 13, 2020, as I was doing my own recovering.

Cathy Owen writes that Sharon Jeffreys dreads this time of year.

As children return for the start of the school year, she relives what happened to her family 15 years ago over and over, and over again.

It was only two weeks into the start of the school year at Deri Primary in 2005 when her eldest son Chandler came home with stomach pains and the beginning of a nightmare for the young family.

Chandler had contracted E. coli O157 after eating contaminated food that had been supplied to the school by a local butcher.

But worse was to come after his younger brother Mason also became ill with the food poisoning.

The five-year-old had only just switched from taking packed lunches to having school dinners because he was so fond of chips and sausages.

“It was the worse decision I ever made,” says Sharon. “Mason loved his food. He was taking sausages and chips off the plates of children, so we decided to switch him to school dinners and he was really happy.”

Mason and eight-year-old Chandler were one of more than 150 schoolchildren and adults struck down in the south Wales outbreak. Thirty-one people were admitted to hospital, but Mason was the only one to die.

He had suffered high temperatures, stomach pains and had hallucinations and was admitted to Bristol children’s hospital, but died of kidney failure.

Today, his mum Sharon remembers every moment of those terrifying days.

“It will be 15 years on September 13 when Chandler first became ill,” she remembers. “When Mason started to be sick I tried to do everything I possibly could. Mason’s condition deteriorated considerably and he started to hallucinate saying he could see slugs and frogs.

“He went a yellow colour and started sweating like he’d just come out of a shower. Mason died two weeks later in unbearable pain.”

Reflecting on the amount of time that has passed, Sharon says: “I just can’t believe how long it has been, it feels like such a long time since I last saw him.

“It is still very difficult to think about, but at this time of year I always relive that awful time. I always dread September coming along because it takes me back there.

“I will never get over it, but I have had to learn how to live with it, but little things can take me back there. Like I see a blade of grass, or hear something and it takes me back with a jolt.

“After Mason died it was really busy, there was the inquest and then the legal proceedings, so I didn’t actually face what had happened for a long time, and then it went quiet and it was like trying to scramble out of a big black hole.

“Mason would have been 21 in December. He should have been looking forward to celebrating that milestone in his life.

“Chandler is 23 now, but he is not the same person. He and Mason were so close, it has left a big hole in his life.

“My younger son is 16 and it has affected his life too. He can’t remember Mason because he wasn’t even one at the time, and that upsets him.”

Fifteen years on and Sharon and her family still feel that they have been denied justice.

Bridgend butcher William Tudor, 56, was jailed for breaching hygiene laws by allowing raw meat to come into contact with cooked ham and turkey.

public inquest in 2010 heard how Tudor put cash before hygiene for years and may have caused other food poisoning outbreaks.

Butcher William Tudor was jailed for 12 months

It was claimed he bought cheap frozen New Zealand mutton and passed it off as prime Welsh lamb and staff who brought him rotten meat unfit for consumption were told to “mince it up” and use it in faggots.

Sharon went  on to immerse herself in other food safety issues, including a push to make restaurant inspection disclosure – scores on doors – mandatory in Wales. Voluntary disclosure misses the point and if large cities like Toronto, New York and Los Angeles can figure out how to make it mandatory so can Wales.

Disclosure became mandatory in Wales and Northern Ireland in Nov. 2013, thanks in part – or largely — to Sharon’s efforts.

The rest of the UK, and Australia, wallows in a voluntary system: lousy score, don’t post it.

“The food hygiene rating scheme is very important and it is good that more people are more aware after what happened,” says Sharon.

“It is a bit concerning to hear that Covid might have an impact on some council environmental services, but we need to make sure there are more officers carrying out inspections and making sure that best practice is being followed.

“I have heard back from people that they have used our story as part of their training for cooks and kitchen staff.

“Before Mason’s death I had never really heard of E. coli. I had heard the name, but didn’t know much about it.

“Now, I think people are definitely more aware. That is good to know, good to know that people haven’t forgotten, even after all these years.”

‘We were wrong’ Butcher should have been charged with manslaughter in Mason Jones E. coli death

A butcher whose E. coli-infected meat killed a five-year-old boy should have been charged with manslaughter, a court has heard.

mason-jonesMason Jones, from Deri, Caerphilly county, died in 2005 after eating contaminated meat at school.

William John Tudor was jailed for a year for breaking food safety laws.

But Cardiff Civil Justice Centre heard the Crown Prosecution Service has admitted it made the “wrong decision” in not pressing manslaughter charges.

The infected meat which killed Mason came from Tudor’s butchers in Bridgend which also supplied more than 40 other schools in the south Wales valleys.

About 160 people fell ill during the E. coli outbreak.

The original inquest in 2010 into Mason’s death recorded a narrative conclusion. Delivering his verdict, coroner David Bowen said: “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.”

On Tuesday, Cardiff Civil Justice centre considered an appeal by Mason’s family to get the original inquest narrative conclusion quashed and a second inquest heard.

Mason’s family, including his older brother who was also infected during the outbreak, were all present in court.

Representing the family, Mark Powell QC, claimed the coroner got the original verdict wrong.

“We say the coroner misdirected the jury and misdirected himself as to the essential elements of the offence,” he said.

“We don’t say the coroner was acting improperly, we say he was wrong.”

Following Mason’s death, the CPS declined to press charges of manslaughter against Tudor, of Cowbridge, Vale of Glamorgan.

The hearing was told that the CPS have since said to the family that was the wrong decision.

Mr Powell said the family is motivated by “a desire to right a wrong”.

The hearing was told Tudor had sufficient training in food hygiene and knew there was a risk someone might die.

The Civil Justice Centre heard a judgement would be handed down at a later date.

Family of 2005 E. coli victim Mason Jones seek new UK inquest

The family of E. coli victim Mason Jones is seeking a judicial review to determine if there should be a fresh inquest into his death.

mason-jonesFive-year-old Mason, of Deri, near Bargoed in Caerphilly county, died after contracting E. coli O157 poisoning during the 2005 South Wales outbreak, caused by rogue butcher William Tudor.

Following an inquest into his death in 2010, which brought in a neutral narrative verdict, his mother Sharon Mills vowed to “fight on for justice” for her son.

The E. coli outbreak struck 44 schools in the South Wales Valleys throughout 2005 and became the second biggest to hit the UK by the time it had run its course.

More than 150 people were infected after butcher William Tudor, the owner of John Tudor and Son, based at Bridgend Industrial Estate, supplied meat to dozens of schools and residential homes for the elderly at the time.

The public inquest in 2010 heard how Tudor put cash before hygiene for years and may have caused other food poisoning outbreaks.

It was claimed he bought cheap frozen New Zealand mutton and passed it off as prime Welsh lamb and staff who brought him rotten meat unfit for consumption were told to “mince it up” and use it in faggots.

He was jailed for one year at Cardiff Crown Court in 2007 after admitting six counts of placing unsafe food on the market and one of failing to protect food against the risk of contamination.

During the inquest into Mason’s death, Gwent Coroner, David Bowen, concluded a lack of good food hygiene standards at Tudor’s meat processing plant led to Mason’s death but said there was not enough evidence to prove he could have foreseen “a serious and obvious risk of death” and delivered a neutral narrative verdict.

Since Mason’s death in 2005, Ms Mills, has also been campaigning to improve food safety and was at the forefront of the campaign to make the display of food hygiene scores mandatory.

The judicial review will be held at the Civil and Family Justice Centre in Cardiff on Tuesday to determine whether or not another inquest should be held.

The moves Wales has taken to stop future outbreaks of E.coli

Positive progress has been made by the majority of Welsh local authorities in preventing future outbreaks of E.coli, a new report has found.

mason.jonesThe Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) Food and Feed Law Enforcement Review in Wales, commissioned in January 2014, looked at what progress has been made to implement recommendations of the Pennington inquiry following a serious outbreak nine years ago.

Five-year-old Mason Jones, from Deri, near Bargoed, Rhymney Valley, died in 2005 and more than 150 others fell ill with the O157 strain across Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil, Caerphilly and Rhondda Cynon Taff.

The outbreak, which struck 44 schools, was the UK’s second biggest.

But the new report, which was unveiled at the Royal Welsh Show, said most councils had “acted decisively” to implement recommendations of the 2009 Pennington inquiry.

powell_tipton_slasher_10_0_storyGwynedd Council was singled out as the only exception.

The FSA set up a food hygiene delivery programme in response to the inquiry’s recommendations and developed a programme of work to improve food hygiene delivery and enforcement across the UK.

Local authority data has confirmed there have been significant improvements in the proportion of food businesses in Wales which are compliant with food hygiene law.

The report said the introduction of the food hygiene rating scheme – known as “scores on the doors” – and collaborative working between local authorities, the FSA and the Welsh Government has empowered consumers to make informed choices about where they eat.

Wales is the only part of the UK where all businesses must display their rating by law.

Mum of five-year-old E-coli victim Mason Jones nominated for Mum of the Year award

Sharon Mills, the mother of five-year-old Mason Jones who died in an E. coli O157 outbreak in 2005, has been nominated for a Mum of the Year title for her campaigning work to improve food safety.

Madeleine Brindle of the South Wales Echo reports that Sharon, 36, who has two other sons Cavan(corr), seven, and Chandler, 14, has recently been at the forefront of the campaign to make the display of food hygiene scores mandatory.

The Welsh Government has said it will introduce legislation to ensure all takeaways and restaurants display their scores.

“There have been a considerable amount of changes made [in food hygiene laws] since 2005 and there are more tools for parents to find out more about where they and their children are eating. I don’t want his death to go in vain.”

E. coli mum’s call for justice

The mother of E. coli victim Mason Jones, along with other affected families, has spoken of their anger at the lack of justice for their children more than five years after the outbreak which sickened 157.

The families, including Mason’s mum, Sharon Mills, claim butcher William Tudor effectively “got away” with causing the world’s sixth largest E.coli outbreak.

Their outrage comes after another rogue food trader was jailed this week for breaching food safety regulations.

Ramazan Aslan, who owned the Llay Fish Bar, near Wrexham, was sentenced to eight months in prison by Mold Crown Court.

In sharp contrast, Tudor, who caused the 2005 South Wales outbreak, served just 12 weeks in jail after being sentenced to a year in September 2007.

He had pleaded guilty to six counts of supplying E .coli-infected meat to schools in South Wales and of breaching food hygiene regulations.

The subsequent E.coli public inquiry said Tudor, who ran John Tudor & Sons on Bridgend Industrial Estate, rode roughshod over essential food safety rules as he cut corners to cut costs.

Sharon Mills told Wales on Sunday,

“The eight-month sentence is good because it shows the courts are taking this more seriously. But the fact that Tudor only got four months extra doesn’t seem right. Even if this guy [Aslan] serves half his sentence it will still be longer than Tudor did.

“This bloke rightly deserves time in prison for what he’s done, but Tudor’s actions killed someone and left all these other children with long-term damage and uncertain futures. Tudor got away with it. I feel as though all the fighting we’ve done over the last five years has been for nothing.”

Julie Price’s 15-year-old son Garyn was one of nine of Tudor’s victims who needed dialysis after contracting E. coli O157. He may need a kidney transplant in the future.

“We’re still living with the consequences of what Tudor did. We said at the time that his sentence wasn’t long enough and this sentence [Aslan’s] confirms it.

“Tudor did the same, if not worse, than this shop owner – he blatantly ignored the risks and the warning and we’re still suffering the consequences.”

Mason’s mum: change the law

When a coroner ruled last week a lack of food hygiene standards at a Welsh butchery was the cause of 5-year-old Mason Jones’ death but there was insufficient evidence to prove “a serious and obvious risk of death,” Sharon Mills was stunned.

Mason’s mum told Abby Alford of Wales online,

“To me this is a travesty of justice.”

Ms Mills, 36, from Deri, near Bargoed, said she and partner Nathan Jones, Mason’s father, are considering calling for a change in the law which meant Bridgend butcher William Tudor – the man responsible for the 2005 outbreak during which more than 150 people were infected with potentially deadly E. coli O157 – escaped a manslaughter charge.

Last week’s verdict followed a decision by the Crown Prosecution Service in 2007 not to pursue a manslaughter case because there was not a realistic prospect of conviction.

“Last Thursday after the inquest I woke up and I felt like I had lost Mason all over again. It’s been us versus the system and it’s a hard system to beat.”

Ms Mills said despite the support of some officials, she believes the pace of change in improving food safety systems has been painfully slow following the 24 recommendations for improvement put forward by expert Professor Hugh Pennington after the public inquiry.

Mason’s mum vows to fight for justice; FSA will try harder

Although Coroner David Bowen said butcher William Tudor’s disregard for food hygiene sparked an E. coli O157 outbreak that claimed the life of 5-year-old Mason Jones in 2005, the “horrific catalogue” of breaches was not enough for him to record the verdict as unlawful death.

While disappointed, Mason’s mom, Sharon Mills, told the South Wales Echo she was grateful Mr Bowen called for tougher enforcement of food hygiene laws and better regulation of food businesses.

Steve Wearne, director of the Food Standards Agency in Wales, said,

“We are determined to ensure that lessons are learned from the tragic death of Mason Jones. We have provided guidance to local authorities that aims to ensure that each intervention in a food business – whether advice, inspection or enforcement – moves it towards full compliance with the law.

“We will shortly issue a public consultation on extending the use of Remedial Action Notices to all food premises. These notices would allow local authority enforcement officers to require a process or activity in a food business that poses a significant risk to human health to be stopped immediately, and would not allow it to recommence until specified action to reduce the risk had been taken.”

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.

‘E. coli destroyed Mason’s organs from the inside’

Sharon Mills, the mother of E. coli victim Mason Jones told a coroner’s inquest today,

“It’s not just a tummy bug; it’s not just diarrhea,” she said. “It killed Mason’s organs and destroyed him from the inside. I didn’t realize that at the time because on the outside he just looked healthy.”

The South Wales Echo reports the inquest heard that Mason, who had only just started having school dinners at Deri Primary School that month, had eaten cold gammon and turkey supplied by butcher William Tudor.

Schools run by Caerphilly council used the cold cooked meats in sandwiches and served it with warm gravy – the meat was not reheated.

Ms Mills told the inquest she had repeatedly tried to get medical help for Mason – “I rang anyone who would listen” – but he was sent home.

Ms Mills told the inquest, at Newport Coroner’s Court, the age of “light-touch” regulation of abattoirs and meat processing plants must end after it heard evidence of Tudor’s disregard for food hygiene at his Bridgend plant.

It emerged he was still trying to sell meat unfit for human consumption during the E.coli outbreak; that he sold frozen New Zealand mutton as Welsh lamb and ordered his staff to turn rotten meat into faggots.

Detective Superintendent Paul Burke, of South Wales Police, who investigated Tudor following Mason’s death, said independent food safety experts consulted by the force had concluded the “prevailing culture in the business was not about food safety but the emphasis was on making and saving money.”

Ms Mills told the inquest she wanted E. coli expert Professor Hugh Pennington to be invited back to Wales to examine whether his recommendations from the public inquiry had been implemented.

“I want to avoid this happening to another family and to stop rogue traders from allowing contaminated meat to get into the food chain. If this prevents another death then I know my son’s death won’t have been in vain.”