"It is just a horrible situation," says a family member of a Hawke's Bay woman who died after contracting listeria in an outbreak of the disease found in meat supplied to Hawke's Bay Hospital.
Two elderly women died after contracting the notifiable disease in June, and two others who got ill in May have since recovered.
Test results showed traces of the bacteria in ready-to-eat meat products supplied to the Hastings hospital. Napier company Bay Cuisine Limited - the sole supplier of those products to the hospital - issued a recall notice for products that may contain the bacteria.
The family member, who spoke exclusively to Hawke's Bay Today last night, said it had been hard to come terms with their loved one's death.
"We've only just got over her death and the funeral and everything," the person, who did not want to be identified, said. "It's a horrible situation. We just have to wait for the investigation to run its course.
"The hospital board have already been in touch with me. We know that my [family member] did have listeriosis meningitis but as far as I know the hospital board can't have done anything more than what they have done.
"I am happy with the way they have dealt with it, they did all that they could for her.
"They were handicapped themselves as they didn't know where it had come from. They still don't know. People might think it's obvious that they have found it with this meat, and actually that's not even certain yet, so people have got to be careful they don't accuse someone of being the instigator of these things when they're not.
"They are obviously working on that to try and find it, and when they do find out, the hospital board are going to be very mad about things themselves I'm sure."
Hawke's Bay District Health Board director of population health Dr Caroline McElnay said the outbreak was a "warning" to those at risk - pregnant women, the elderly and those with supressed immune systems - but there had been no new cases.
"There have been no further notifications since the end of June, but as listeria has a long incubation period we are advising health professionals to be aware."
She said the hospital now cooked and sliced its own meat. Other changes may be made after the inquiry.
It also emerged yesterday that one person has died of listeria in Bay of Plenty this month, but health authorities have ruled out a link to the two deaths here.
Health Minister Tony Ryall said his ministry would be seeking confirmation of the country's health boards' food safety policies.
He would be "very surprised" if they did not re-check their own food safety procedures.
"No one would expect this for their family member and I extend my sympathy to the families."
Bay Cuisine voluntarily recalled ready-to-eat products that might be affected from Prestons and Mad Butcher stores throughout the country. The source of the contamination has not been confirmed.
However because Bay Cuisine directors would not be interviewed, Hawke's Bay Today was unable to ascertain how far their products were distributed.
In a media statement, Bay Cuisine managing director Simon Wills said they had employed an independent safety food expert to review procedures.
"Right now in the interests of public health and safety we are focusing on working with the Ministry and managing our voluntary ready-to-eat meat product recall.
"While we understand the DHB has an independent review underway, we are ready to contribute to that process should it be required and appropriate."
The recall of products sold to Prestons and Mad Butcher stores was voluntary because none of the products sold to them had shown any sign of contamination. Mad Butcher Chief Executive Michael Morton said the voluntary recall was a "precautionary measure," . No signs were erected in stores because they did not stock Bay Cuisine's sliced cooked meat.