Public Health England (PHE) confirmed that 17 workers from two factories in the Chatteris area of Fenland, Cambridgeshire have been diagnosed with TB since 2012.
Six patients were diagnosed with TB in 2012, nine in 2013 and two so far this year.
They are now receiving treatment and no longer infectious, said the agency.
ERMS UK action
ERMS UK confirmed to FoodQualityNews.com that two people directly employed by them were affected.
The firm is a procuring, packing and storage specialist of fruit, vegetables and flowers for supermarkets, wholesalers and caterers in the UK.
“When we became aware we followed all health care guide lines and spent time educating ourselves on the subject,” said Ian Smith, managing director.
The firm is holding another meeting with PHE next week and Smith said they are working with the agency to ensure it does not happen again.
“The infection, as I’m sure you know, takes time to show itself and as such monitoring will be on going with any actions agreed as or if felt needed,” he said.
One in three people is infected with TB bacteria. Only when the bacteria become active do people become ill.
Bacteria become active after anything that can reduce immunity, such as HIV, advancing age, or some medical conditions.
Not easily spread
Dr Giri Shankar, consultant in communicable disease control at PHE’s Anglia and Essex Centre, said TB is not easily spread unless you have had close prolonged contact with an infected individual.
“As many of the employees at the affected factories work within close proximity of each other for long periods and travel to work together, we are following up on close contacts of cases and will also be carrying out screening.
“This is a routine procedure and the best way to identify cases early and stop any further spread of the infection.
“There is no evidence to suggest TB transmission can occur from consumption of vegetables from the factories.”
Produce World clarification
Produce World Group issued a statement of clarification regarding the outbreaks among workers at packing plants in the Chatteris area.
“Produce World Group wishes to make it clear that Produce World Chatteris is not one of the plants concerned.
“The Produce World Group has robust and clear sickness reporting procedures in place to deal with any illness among its staff.”