Ipswich: Support grows for under-fire seed company Thompson & Morgan

IPSWICH/SUFFOLK: The town’s community is today pledging its support for Ipswich’s internationally-renowned seed company after it was pitched into the centre of an international food scare.

Support for Thompson & Morgan has been flooding in after it emerged that the French authorities were blaming it for an e-coli outbreak.

Staff and customers of Thompson & Morgan were left stunned when French commerce minister Frederic Lefevre blamed it for an e-coli outbreak that left eight visitors to a school fete near Bordeaux in hospital with e-coli food poisoning.

The firm, which has been in Ipswich for 150 years, has sold billions of the seeds in question across the continent – with no other cases of the illness linked to them.

The French government banned the sale of three types of sprouting seeds – fenugreek, mustard and arugula seeds linked to Thompson & Morgan.

An investigation by France’s competition, consumption and fraud prevention agency found two of the eight people taken to hospital had consumed sprouts from the three seeds at a school fair in the south-western town of Begles.

Mayor John le Grys said Thompson & Morgan’s headquarters might be just outside the borough boundary, but it was very much part of the “Ipswich family.”

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He said: “It is a very well-respected company that employs many people from Ipswich and they deserve our support. Everyone in the town will be right behind them.”

Borough councillor George Debman worked with Thompson & Morgan as a member of the Ipswich in Bloom committee – the seed company is a major sponsor.

He said: “To be honest I didn’t know much about them before I started on the committee, but I have to say they are brilliant company for their commitment to Ipswich.”

Thompson & Morgan’s headquarters at Sproughton on the outskirts of Ipswich is in the South Suffolk constituency of Tim Yeo.

He said: “It is clearly very worrying for them. We need to find out what the situation is before rushing into hasty action.”

Environmental health officials from Babergh council have visited the company’s headquarters to take samples which will be tested at a laboratory in Preston in Lancashire.

The results of the tests should be known by Thursday.

The company issued a statement about the outbreak saying there was no clear link between the outbreak of e-coli and the consumption of sprouting seeds.

It added: “We note that the French outbreak seems to be localised to a specific event, which would indicate to us that something local in the Bordeaux area, or the way the product has been handled and grown, is responsible for the incident rather than our seeds.

“The health and safety of the public is always of paramount concern to Thompson & Morgan and we will continue to fully co-operate with all investigations.”

n Do you want to send message of goodwill to Thompson and Morgan? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.