Legal action started against Tesco and Asda over E. coli outbreak

The claimants include an 11-year-old girl who contracted E. coli after eating an own-brand Asda chicken salad sandwich.

Legal action started against Tesco and Asda over E. coli outbreak Getty Images

Lawyers acting for two people who fell ill in the E. coli outbreak linked to salad leaves have started legal action against Tesco and Asda for compensation.

Legal firm Fieldfisher told the PA news agency it has issued letters of claim for breach of the Consumer Protection Act over own-brand sandwiches purchased in the supermarkets.

The claims relate to an 11-year-old girl from the North West and a man from the South East.

The UK Health Security Agency said on Thursday one patient had died in the E. coli outbreak, which investigators believe is linked to salad used in sandwiches.

Fieldfisher said the claim against Asda relates to the 11-year-old girl who contracted E. coli after eating an own-brand chicken salad sandwich bought at one of its stores.

“The girl, aged 11, developed the serious condition haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), which attacks the kidneys and has been on dialysis for three weeks,” it said.

“She was discharged home two days ago but could be at risk of permanent kidney damage. Her mother bought three of the sandwiches as part of an online delivery.”

A legal director at the firm, Harvinder Kaur, said she had issued a separate letter to Tesco on behalf of an adult man from the South East who was also hospitalised with E. coli symptoms after eating Tesco-branded sandwiches containing salad.

“Luckily, this client did not go on to develop HUS and is now home, but for a time he was seriously ill,” she said.

“Under the Act, companies producing food must ensure it is safe to eat.

“If it causes illness, it is a breach of their duty and those injured are eligible to claim compensation, not least to fund possible ongoing medical care.

“My client was a regular shopper at Tesco, buying his lunch there most days since it was very close to his work.”

An Asda spokesperson said: “We have not yet received any letter from Fieldfisher regarding these claims, as soon as we do we will review the details of the claim as a matter of urgency.”

Tesco has been contacted for comment.

What has caused the E. coli outbreak and how many people are affected?

Several food manufacturers have recalled sandwiches, wraps and salads sold in major supermarkets and retail chains owing to the spread of E. coli.

The UKHSA said the number of cases it is seeing is declining, but more will come to light as further samples are referred to it from NHS laboratories.

So far, there have been 182 cases in England, 58 in Scotland, 31 in Wales and four in Northern Ireland. The latter cases are thought to have acquired their infection in England.

At least 122 people have been admitted to hospital for treatment since the start of the outbreak.

Darren Whitby, head of incidents at the FSA, said on Thursday it believed a type of lettuce used in sandwich products was the likely cause of the outbreak.

He added: “Although we are confident in the likely source of the outbreak being linked to lettuce, work continues to confirm this and identify the root cause of the outbreak with the growers, suppliers and manufacturers so that actions can be taken to prevent a re-occurrence.”

E. coli is a diverse group of bacteria that are normally harmless and live in the intestines of humans and animals.

However, some strains produce toxins that can make people very ill, such as shiga toxin-producing E. coli (Stec), which is the strain involved in this outbreak.

People infected with Stec can suffer diarrhoea, and about 50% of cases have bloody diarrhoea.

Other symptoms include stomach cramps and fever.

Symptoms can last up to two weeks in uncomplicated cases.

Some patients, mainly children, may develop HUS, which is a serious life-threatening condition resulting in kidney failure.

A small proportion of adults may develop a similar condition called thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP).

Stec is often transmitted by eating contaminated food but can also be spread by close contact with an infected person, as well as direct contact with an infected animal or where it lives.

People are advised to call NHS 111 or contact their GP surgery if they are worried about a baby under 12 months, a child stops breast or bottle feeding while they are ill, a child under five has signs of dehydration such as fewer wet nappies, and if older children or adults still have signs of dehydration after using oral rehydration sachets.

Help should also be sought if people are being sick and cannot keep fluid down, there is bloody diarrhoea or bleeding from the bottom, diarrhoea lasts more than seven days, or vomiting for more than two days.

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