Salmonella inquest blames packaging

By Jonathan Kalmus, December 15, 2011

The death of a Jewish grandmother who contracted salmonella from beansprouts should force national changes to food labelling to prevent further deaths, a coroner has ruled.

A four-day inquest into the death of René Kwartz, from north Manchester, concluded that the 82- year-old was infected by salmonella, in beansprouts served at a Jewish wedding in August 2010. It had been alleged that the wedding's caterer, Shefa Mehadrin, had neglected food safety standards.

But last Thursday (December 8) the inquest's jury unanimously returned a verdict of death by natural causes.

During evidence from Bury Council's environmental health investigators, it emerged that no fault was found with the caterer, but that serving instructions on the beansprout packages used at the wedding, were misleading.

Manchester Coroner Nigel Meadows said he would push the government and the Food Standards Agency to review cooking guidelines on beansprout packaging. The agencies must report on what action will be taken within 56 days. Concluding the inquest, Mr Meadows said: "It seems that clarity on the cooking of this product could be easily achieved.

"Somebody else could be seriously ill and die and I could understand it likely that, after this inquest, people could look at me and say, why didn't you do anything about it? I will be writing to the relevant government minister and the FSA."

The inquest rejected allegations that North Manchester General Hospital had failed adequately to care for Mrs Kwartz after doctors delayed antibiotic treatment for two days. However, the coroner has requested a review by the hospital's trust into confusion over the application of its resuscitation policy, and a "contradictory" internal hospital investigation into Mrs Kwartz's death.

Following the inquest, Mrs Kwartz's family released a statement describing the hearing as "distressing. We will be reviewing the evidence obtained during the inquest, and considering further action," they said.

Manchester solicitors Pannone said it was advising its clients on possible civil action against the hospital.

Last updated: 2:09pm, December 15 2011