COUNCILLORS are demanding a change in the law in the wake of the Wrexham E.coli outbreak which left nine people seriously ill.
Members of Wrexham Council’s environment and regeneration scrutiny committee heard at their meeting yesterday afternoon that the food outlet at the centre of the 2009 outbreak, Llay Fish Bar, had no public liability insurance to cover victims for the stress and suffering they were caused.
And after being told this is not a legal requirement for any premises selling food to the public they made an urgent call for the loophole to be closed.
In July, 2009 the council’s public protection team was notified of a number of cases of E.coli O157 – a serious stomach bug that can be potentially fatal.
Young mother Karen Morrisroe, of Rhosnesni, almost died when she caught the bug and complications set in. She spent seven weeks in an induced coma as staff at Wrexham Maelor Hospital battled to save her life.
Three-year-old Abigail Hennessy, from Llay, was admitted to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool suffering from kidney failure but was discharged two weeks later after making a good recovery.
There were three other less serious cases in Wrexham and four more in neighbouring Oswestry.
Ramazan Aslan, operator of the fish bar at that time, admitted six food hygiene offences brought by Wrexham Council, and at Mold Crown Court last month was sentenced to eight months in prison.
The fish bar has since re-opened under new management.
However, because Aslan had no assets to pay costs and was uninsured there was a question mark over who would pay the council’s £24,300 legal costs.
At yesterday meeting councillors were told the Food Standards Agency (FSA) had now agreed to foot the bill, but members were shocked to learn from public protection manager Toni Slater that public liability insurance is not mandatory.
Overton Conservative member Lloyd Kenyon said: “I am astonished that all businesses are not required to have this insurance.
“Thankfully, nobody died in this outbreak of E.coli but they could have done.
“This is an outrageous situation and we should take it up with the Welsh Assembly Government immediately.”
And Geoff Lowe, Labour member for Acton, said: “I am astounded to find there is no legal requirement for businesses to have this insurance.
“Someone in Cardiff or Westminster has let the public down badly.
“They have a duty to legislate to make sure that this sort of thing is in place.”
Wrexham Council operates a system of awarding stars from zero to five for hygiene standards at food outlets throughout the county borough.
Although this can be checked on the council’s website it is not mandatory for establishments to display their star rating outside their premises.
A number of councillors argued this should also be compulsory.
The committee ruled that its views on insurance and star ratings should be passed on to the FSA.