January 21, 2006
THE smallgoods company at the centre of the fatal listeria outbreak in South Australia has been linked to a third death.
The state Health Department said there was evidence a Victorian woman ate meat from Conroy’s Smallgoods before a massive recall of its products when they were linked to two other deaths in early December.
The monocytogenes strain of listeria that led to the January 8 death of the elderly woman at Adelaide’s The Queen Elizabeth Hospital (TQEH) was the same one that killed Royal Adelaide Hospital patient Richard Formosa in October and Gawler Hospital cancer patient David Davies-Colgate in November.
Health Department director Kevin Buckett said evidence was “building” that the woman contracted listeria through Conroy’s products. “There is a plausible link that would associate Conroy’s products with the patient from TQEH,” Dr Buckett said. “The epidemiology looks right; the laboratory tests look right.”
On January 2, the Department gave Conroy’s the all-clear to produce 95per cent of its smallgoods, but has not cleared production of its sliced meats.
Conroy’s managing director Pat Conroy said its ready-to-eat products, sliced at the factory, “would not be produced and tested in the foreseeable future”.
He said there was no conclusive evidence to link the company with the listeria found in the Victorian woman.
“The listeria found is a common strain of listeria and there is no evidence that (that) TQEH patient had eaten any Conroy’s products,” he said.Health Minister John Hill said the woman, 70, had not contracted listeria while she was a patient at TQEH because its kitchen had tested negative for listeria and sliced meats were not served from the time she was admitted on December 31 up to her death.
Mr Hill confirmed the link to Conroy’s was not definite. “It may well be that there is some other product out there which has the same listeria,” he said.
Dr Buckett said there was a “small chance” the listeria may have come from other products.
The crown solicitor is considering whether charges will be laid against Conroy’s.