Parents are demanding to know why they were not alerted for two weeks about an E Coli outbreak at a farm which has left three children seriously ill.
The first case was confirmed at Godstone Farm in Surrey on August 27 but the farm, which attracts 2,000 visitors a day at peak times, was not closed to the public until Saturday, during which time tens of thousands of visitors may have passed through its doors.
Thirty-six cases of the E Coli virus have now been confirmed, including 12 children, three of whom are seriously ill in hospital.
Evelina Niedzwiedzka, 28, who visited the farm a fortnight ago with her one-year-old daughter, Nicole, demanded to know why visitors had not been alerted earlier.
She said: "If the farm did know about it two weeks ago, I'm very surprised there were no warnings, especially because children are so vulnerable."
And Neil Wilson, whose six-year-old nephew Tommy is one of the victims, told Sky News: "It's been a living hell."
The health body at the centre of the controversy, the Health Protection Agency, defended its actions.
On August 27, a laboratory report confirmed a case of E Coli in the area. Local environmental health officers linked the case to the farm. The following day the officers contacted staff at the farm to advise them to remind visitors to wash their hands after petting animals. Four days later three further cases emerged, including one involving a visitor to the farm. Health officials arranged to visit the farm two days later.
Following a visit by environmental health officers and Health Protection Agency officials on September 3, the farm's managers were told that contact with high-risk animals should cease. Over the next week, more E Coli cases emerged, but none before the non-contact measures were introduced on September 3. However, on September 11, environmental health officers learned of another E Coli case, this time involving someone who had visited the farm on September 4. The farm was advised to close and shut the next day.
The HPA insisted that the non-contact measures it introduced on September 3 should have been enough to contain the outbreak.