Christmas parties to prevent the spread of E.coli
School Christmas parties have been cancelled in the wake of the E.coli outbreak.
Parents have been advised not to give their children festive food and treats to take into schools as part of their Christmas celebrations.
The advice from Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s outbreak control team is that only food for personal consumption should be allowed into schools and letters have been sent to parents.
So far the outbreak has caused the death of five-year-old Mason Jones and 171 people have been infected.
Some schools are also planning to cancel their Christmas parties altogether because of the increased threat they could pose.
Health officials have ordered schools to stop pupils sharing homemade food.
Stringent hygiene measures were brought in on 19 September when the South Wales valleys outbreak was first detected.
It will affect hundreds of Christmas parties and fetes, held by schools across the region, which rely on homemade cakes and sandwiches being brought in by parents.
A similar ban was imposed on schools in the area holding harvest festivals and distributing food.
The Outbreak Control Team (OCT) leading the effort to stop the spread of infection has said that stringent hygiene rules cannot be relaxed over Christmas.
“We have had clear control measures in place from the beginning of the outbreak,” said a spokesman for the OCT.
“The effect is that no children should bring in to school food other than for their own consumption.
“That was done to stop the spread of the infection and that control measure, among others, is still in place.
“Some schools have Christmas parties or Christmas fairs which involve bringing in food to share or sell to the outside community.
“That obviously could not be allowed because there may still be people walking around with the infection and it could be passed on.
“This will disappoint some people but I am sure that if it stops the spread of the infection people will fully understand why it is being done.”
Julie Price, from Aberaman, Aberdare, mum to nine-year-old E.coli victim Garyn, a pupil at Blaengwawr Primary, said: “We’ve been told that for the Christmas party they are allowed to bring in their own plate of food.
“It’s understandable. To be honest I wouldn’t want Garyn to have anything other than something I have prepared.”
Christine Hale, head teacher at Penygraig Infants, said: “I think the local authority is taking appropriate action. The children will have plenty of other things to do, such as a disco.”
Pentre Primary School head teacher Phil Rowlands added: “We always have Father Christmas but this year he’ll have to give little gifts rather than sweets.”
Chris Morgan, head teacher at Glenboi Primary, in Mountain Ash, which was the first to close during the outbreak, said: “We will have a carol service and a party.”
And a spokeswoman for Archbishop McGrath school, in Bridgend, added: “We have had the message through and the head has instructed staff to that effect.”
But Gail Griffiths, of Pwllgwaun, whose nine-year-old daughter Maria had to be airlifted to Alder Hey Hospital, in Liverpool, when she caught the bug, said she thought the advice went too far: “I can totally understand the council not wanting food taken into schools when it cannot be refrigerated and kept properly.
“But not sweets and selection boxes that is just going to the extreme.”
A primary school and nursery were closed after 12 cases were confirmed. Health officials have said the outbreak is not connected to the one in South Wales.