17 Oct 2014

Hort industry slams Medical Officer

9:13 am on 17 October 2014

The horticulture industry has launched an attack on a health professional who believed the public had a right to know that lettuce and carrots were the prime suspects in more than 120 cases of severe gastroenteritis.

The outbreak of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis affected 127 people with 38 needing hospital treatment.

Horticulture New Zealand president Peter Silcock has slammed the Canterbury Medical Officer of Health, Alistair Humphrey, as an uninformed alarmist for publicly discussing the ESR report - that the Government wanted to hide.

The study by the Institute for Environmental Science and Research was released under the Official Information Act yesterday.

It found Pam's Fresh Express mesculun salad and Pam's Fresh Express lettuce were the top two most common exposures among those who got sick. But ESR said the information was not definitive and more investigation was needed.

The report found those who ate lettuce and carrots from either New World or Pak'nSave were 2.33 times more likely as have contracted Yersinia pseudotuberculosis than those who shopped at rival supermarket chain Progressive Enterprises, which owns Countdown.

Those who bought lettuces from independent supermarkets were 4.08 times more likely to have become ill than those buying from Progressive Enterprises.

But Mr Silcock said the report was not conclusive and claimed Mr Humphrey was out of line in discussing it.

He said he believed Mr Humphrey's comments were very speculative and irresponsible.

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