In November 2011, three children from the same family were hospitalised with botulism after eating food made using the contents of a jar of Loyd Grossman korma sauce.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) advised a product recall and Premier recalled 47,000 jars of the sauce.
It was extremely bad news for Premier, as Loyd Grossman is one of the firm’s eight Power Brands. Ceo Michael Clarke has planned his recovery strategy for Premier around the Power Brands and the disposal of its non core businesses.
Loyd Grossman’s spokesman said the chef was “devastated” by the incident.
The FSA has been investigating the outbreak ever since and has now finally confirmed that there was “no evidence” of deficiencies at the Premier Foods site that might have led to “contamination, germination or toxin production”.
In the final report, An outbreak of food-borne botulism in Scotland, November 2011, the FSA’s incident management team stated: “The fact that cases were confined to a single household strongly suggests that only one jar was contaminated, which makes a manufacturing fault very unlikely.”
The report speculates that the jar could have been contaminated after leaving the factory.
It states that the jar’s seal could have been broken at some point between manufacture and entering the family’s house, which could have enabled the ingress of C.botulinum spores and spoilage organisms.
“There was no evidence that the jar was contaminated during the three days it was in the family’s house,” stated the report. “Even if it had been contaminated there, it is unlikely that there would have been sufficient time for spores to germinate and produce toxin.”
An investigation of the house did not identify any source or route of contamination of the jar.
All three children subsequently recovered from their illness.
Premier’s seven other Power Brands are: Batchelors, Bisto, Ambrosia, Hovis, Mr Kipling, Oxo and Sharwood’s.
- November 13 2011 – The FSA issues an alert after two siblings are hospitalised with botulism in Scotland. They had consumed food made using Loyd Grossman korma sauce.
- November 14 2011 – Premier recalls 47,000 jars of Loyd Grossman korma sauce carrying a February 2013 best-before date and batch code 1218R. One jar from the batch was found to be contaminated with botulinum toxin, which can cause botulism poisoning.
- November 15 2011 – Loyd Grossman’s spokesman said the TV chef was “devastated” by the incident.
- November 16 2011 – A third child from the same family is hospitalised.
- November 17 2011 – The FSA announce that its investigations to date have not revealed the source of contamination. It continues its investigations, including the possibility that the product was contaminated during transport and storage.
- November 18 2011 – Loyd Grossman’s agent tells FoodManufacture.co.uk that Premier and Grossman are “not at fault” and contamination lies further down the supply chain.
- November 23 2011 – The FSA tells FoodManufacture.co.uk it’s too early to rule out the possibility of contamination at the factory and its investigations continue.
- December 12 2011 – Scientists are no closer to locating the source of the contamination and describe the incident as “a complete mystery”. No stages of the production process are cleared.
- January 25 2012 – the FSA confirms that it’s still unable to locate the source of contamination. It’s an isolated incident involving just one jar of the product.
- August 10 2012 – Health Protection Scotland releases its final report on the incident. It found no evidence of deficiencies that might have led to contamination at the production facility.