'They sent her home and she lay in my arms dying': Husband's anger at hospital and pub after his wife dies from suspected Christmas Day food poisoningDella Callagher, 46, fell ill hours after Christmas dinnerShe had eaten the meal at the Railway Hotel in Hornchurch, EssexHer furious husband said hospital sent her home despite poor conditionHe is now planning legal action against
both the hospital and the pubHealth Protection Authority said 30 diners fell ill after dinner at venueHotel spokesman said it's 'wrong to speculate' until after investigation

. One person has sadly died after being admitted to

‘Laboratory testing has confirmed the
presence of Clostridium perfringens bacteria in a number of samples
submitted by those experiencing symptoms, including the patient who

The HPA and environment health
officers from the London Borough of Havering, which covers Hornchurch,
are jointly investigating whether there are any links between the
outbreak and the food served at the Railway Hotel.

Sick: Mrs Callagher was admitted to the Queen's Hospital in Romford, pictured, on Boxing Day

Sick: Mrs Callagher was admitted to the Queen's Hospital in Romford, pictured, on Boxing Day

Dr Deborah Turbitt, director of the
HPA’s local health protection unit, said: ‘Our thoughts are with the
family at this sad time.

‘The venue has been cooperating fully with our investigations. Indications suggest that this outbreak is an isolated event.’

A spokesman for Ember Inns, which runs
the Railway Hotel, said: ‘We would like to reassure our guests that we
prepare our food to the highest hygiene standards.

‘Our kitchens are monitored regularly
through internal checks and independent external audits. In fact the pub
holds a five-star hygiene rating under the Food Standards Association
(FSA) National Rating Scheme, the highest rating that can be awarded by
the FSA.

‘The local authority is investigating
an alleged food poisoning outbreak at the Railway. We are fully
co-operating with the environmental health and Health Protection Agency
teams while they conduct this investigation; however until the
investigation is complete we can’t speculate about a possible cause or

‘We would like to offer our sincere condolences to the family at this difficult time.’

People become unwell on average about
12 hours after eating food contaminated with Clostridium perfringens and
the illness usually lasts a few days.

But vulnerable patients, including
young children, the elderly and those with underlying health problems
can be seriously affected. Deaths as a direct result of food poisoning
are rare.

Queen’s Hospital
chief executive Averil Dongworth said: 'The patient was seen and fully
assessed by a senior clinician, and given appropriate treatment and
advice before returning home.

Trust followed accepted medical practice. We will be fully reviewing
the case. We have written to the family offering our condolences… and
inviting them to meet with medical staff who can answer any queries or

The hospital has
twice been criticised by the health watchdog in the last two years. Five
patients have died on its maternity ward since 2007. The Care Quality
Commission warned a lack of beds caused a backlog in A&E, and
criticised the hospital for relying on using doctors from locum

The UK's third most common cause of food poisoning

The bacterium Clostridium perfringens is widely distributed in the environment and food. It is the third most common cause of food poisoning in the UK.

If spores of the bacteria survive cooking, they can germinate to form growing cells. Spores cannot grow in a refrigerator or freezer but thrive at room temperature.

In optimal growing conditions, the organism has a generation time of 10 to 12 minutes. When a large number of the vegetative cells are consumed this will more-likely-than-not lead to gastroenteritis.

Food poisoning from the bacteria most often occurs when foodstuffs, usually red meat or poultry, is prepared in advance and kept warm for several hours before serving.

The illness, with diarrhoea and abdominal pain the main symptoms, generally lasts for less than 24 hours but elderly people may be more seriously affected.

The bacteria is also responsible for 80-95 per cent of gas gangrene cases, a rare but severe form of gangrene.