Pupils fed under-cooked chicken

Sacred Heart Primary School, Springfield
Sacred Heart Primary School, Springfield
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PUPILS and their parents face an anxious wait after it emerged that youngsters at a Wigan primary school were fed under-cooked chicken.

A probe has been launched after the blunder was flagged up at Sacred Heart Primary in Springfield a letter sent out to families by public health chiefs.

At the time of going to press it was not thought that any of the estimated 17 children who ate the suspect chicken korma for last Thursday’s school lunch had fallen ill.

But, as experts have pointed out, it can sometimes take up to 10 days before any food poisoning manifests itself.

One father, who did not wish to be idenfitied, said: “The parents are fuming over the school’s failure to contact them straight away when kids have been served raw chicken for lunch!

“This is incompetence at its best!”

The letter from Wigan Council was sent out to parents and carers on Friday explaining that an “incident” had occurred at the school the previous day in which undercooked chicken may have been served to a small number of children in a chicken korma for their lunch.

It adds: “An initial investigation carried out by environmental health officers from Wigan Council, MetroFresh (the school caterers) and the school indicates that 17 pupils may have been served undercooked chicken during the lunchtime service.

“The environmental health team are curently carrying out further investigations at the school and liaising closely with expert advice and support from Public Health England and the Public Health Protection Team at Wigan Council.”

The letters says that the advice they have received from PHE is that if there are any potential cases of food-borne illness arising from this incident, the onset of symptoms is likely to be between two and 10 days.

The parents are urged to seek prompt medical advice if their child had the korma last Thursday and has since complained of feeling unwell with symptoms of vomiting and diarrhoea.

The letter says that local GPs, the out-of-hours GP services and A&E have all been made aware of the problem.

And the council pledges that if the inquiry finds that undercooked chicken was served to pupils, it will take “appropriate action” and ensure that robust measures are taken to ensure it does not recur.

The Sacred Heart incident comes just weeks after MetroFresh inadvertently served halal meat to children at Hindley St Benedict’s Primary, despite its being taken off all school menus earlier in the year.

While it is safe to serve many fresh meats undercooked or even raw these days, poultry, and especially chicken still carries health risks, including from salmonella and campylobacter and must be thoroughly cooked.

A joint statement read: “Wigan Council and PHE North West’s Greater Manchester Health Protection team is investigating an incident of undercooked chicken being served to a small group of pupils at Sacred Heart Catholic Primary on January 14. The school has contacted parents of these children to make them aware of the situation and what actions to take if their child develops any gastroenteritis-like symptoms. Dr Merav Kliner from the Greater Manchester Health Protection Team said: “Our Health Protection team is working with public health and environmental health officers from Wigan Council to investigate the incident and ensure measures are in place to prevent this from happening again. School staff and the catering company involved are co-operating fully with the investigation.”