Journal Article

Enforcement of science—using a <i>Clostridium perfringens</i> outbreak investigation to take legal action

Peter Acheson, Vikki Bell, Janet Gibson, Russell Gorton and Thomas Inns

in Journal of Public Health

Volume 38, issue 3, pages 511-515
Published in print September 2016 | ISSN: 1741-3842
Published online October 2016 | e-ISSN: 1741-3850 | DOI:
Enforcement of science—using a Clostridium perfringens outbreak investigation to take legal action

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We report an outbreak of Clostridium perfringens in a care home in North East England.


A retrospective cohort study was used to investigate this outbreak. Faecal samples were obtained from symptomatic residents. Environmental Health Officers carried out a food hygiene inspection and formal statements were taken.


Fifteen residents reported illness and the epidemic curve was suggestive of a point source outbreak. Results suggest that illness was associated with consumption of mince & vegetable pie and/or gravy. There were a number of issues with food served, in particular the mince products had been cooked, cooled, reheated and served again over a period of several days. Faecal sampling revealed the presence of C.perfringens enterotoxin gene and four samples were indistinguishable by fluorescent amplified fragment length polymorphism, indicating a likely common source. The operator of the home was charged with three offences under the General Food Regulations 2004 and the Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006 and was convicted on all counts.


An outbreak of C.perfringens occurred in a care home. The likely cause was consumption of mince & vegetable pie and/or gravy. Epidemiological evidence can be used to help prosecute businesses with food safety offences in such circumstances.

Keywords: communicable diseases; epidemiology

Journal Article.  3019 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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