HOSPITAL bosses averted a major health hazard after sandwiches linked to a national listeria outbreak were taken away before patients ate them.

The trust which runs Colchester Hospital yesterday revealed the pre-packed sandwiches were delivered to its partner hospital in Ipswich.

But as soon as it became aware of the potential risk of listeria, the food was removed.

Spokeswoman Jan Ingle added: “East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Colchester Hospital, has been listed as one of the 43 trusts affected, but the sandwiches involved were only delivered to Ipswich Hospital for patients’ meals or snacks.

“As soon as we learnt about the outbreak everything was taken away and an alternative supplier was found immediately.”

The listeria outbreak has killed five patients elsewhere in the country and has been linked to pre-packed sandwiches and salads supplied from the Good Food Chain.

Its meat producer is Cooked Meats and both have ceased production while investigations into the outbreak continue.

One patient died at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust and two at Aintree University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in Liverpool, at the start of the outbreak.

Last week two more patients died - at Leicester Royal Infirmary and Royal Derby Hospital.

Sandwiches and salads linked to the outbreak were withdrawn as soon as a link with the cases was suspected.

But more cases may emerge because listeria has a 70-day incubation period.

Public Health England says the health risk to the public remains low, and individuals should only seek medical attention if they develop symptoms.

Listeria is a bacterium which can cause a type of food poisoning.

Normally, the symptoms are mild - a high temperature, chills, feeling sick - and go away on their own after a few days.

But in this outbreak, the cases occurred in people already seriously ill in hospital and at more risk of infection.

Listeria can then cause organ damage, spread to the brain or bloodstream, and be fatal.