Petting farm E. Coli cases ‘show tougher rules needed’

Clearer and tougher rules are needed to help protect people visiting children’s farms, experts say.

The recommendations were made by an investigation into the biggest ever farm E. coli outbreak.

More than 90 people were struck down by the potentially fatal 0157 strain of the bug at Surrey’s Godstone Farm last year.

The inquiry criticised the farm’s procedures and the reaction of the regulatory agencies.
The farm was not closed until a month after the first case.

During this time tens of thousands of people would have passed through it.

The probe was ordered by the Health Protection Agency, which itself was criticised for its “lack of leadership” during the peak school holiday season in August and September.

The assessment of risk by the farm was inadequate as it primarily relied on visitors washing their hands, the inquiry said.

It suggested all children’s farms do more to minimise the risk of visitors coming into contact with animal dung.

Professor Mark Stevens of the Institute for Animal health explains what is E.coli 0157
Indeed experts said it was very likely that the outbreak could have been avoided if more attention had been paid to preventing visitors being exposed to animal waste.

The report welcomed moves that have already been proposed to develop an industry-wide code of practice.

But the experts were scathing about the response of public health officials from both local government and the Health Protection Agency.

It said delays meant an opportunity was missed to restrict the size of the outbreak.

A total of 93 people were affected – 76 of whom were children under the age of 10.

Legal action

Some of those are still ill with kidney damage and a group of parents is preparing to launch legal action for damages.

The inquiry has been led by Professor George Griffin, an expert in infectious disease from St George’s, University of London.

He said: “There will undoubtedly be a continuation of the trend towards diversification of farms and particularly in the number of open farms with public access.

“In the context of what happened at Godstone a new framework for the future which is explicit and unambiguous is clearly needed.”

E. coli 0157 bacteria cause diarrhoea and can lead to kidney failure, especially in young children.
After the outbreak, the head of the HPA, Justin McCracken, telephoned some of the parents affected to apologise for the delays in acting.

Since last year’s outbreak, the rules on E. coli 0157 have changed, making some of its symptoms notify able in the way smallpox or measles are. Doctors now have to notify the relevant authorities if they detect signs of the infection.

The farm is now open again.

Marsh & Company Ltd

Following the official announcement of Marsh & Company as the appointed approved Insurance Brokers to NFAN in the last Autumn Newsletter.

Marsh & Company are continuing to build their presence in the NFAN Membership including their MD Paul Nash being one of the Judges in the NFAN Attraction of The Year.

The Scheme is proving of great interest with many members new and existing transferring to the scheme and welcoming the innovative approach and personal service of Marsh & Company.

In addition Marsh & Company also have a unique breadth of products including Directors and Officers Liability when in this ever litigated market place is going down very well with the members.

This covers wrongful acts committed by any Director and Officers or Senior Managers of the company and in particular covers the issue such as breaches of Health and Safety. Premiums for this cover now can be placed for £250 per annum which gives peace of mind for any business but particular those with visitor attractions.

Marsh & Company also have unique extension for Loss of Revenue under the Policy which includes closure of the premises by a competent Authority.

With the ongoing work by NFAN and the pending new Code of Practice for E-Coli we are confident this extension in cover will be of a particular benefit to the NFAN Insurance Scheme.

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