A GARDENER left fighting for his life after being struck down by a rare legionella bug today added his voice to calls for the introduction of warning labels on bags of compost.
Iain Fraser, who owns the Elephant House coffee and tea room on George IV Bridge where JK Rowling penned part of the first Harry Potter book, spent more than three weeks in hospital in September.
The 61-year-old was one of six people hospitalised after contracting the legionella longbeachae bug, which is linked to compost and potting materials.
His condition became so serious that concerned doctors advised his children, living in New Zealand, to fly to the Capital as they believed he may not survive.
An outbreak in the Lothian region last year led to a flurry of warnings to the public, informing them of precautions they could take to lessen the chances of infection.
And with cases on the rise in Scotland, Mr Fraser today said he believes warning labels should be added to compost packaging – a measure than has already been adopted in Australia and New Zealand where the bug is traditionally more common.
But the Scottish Government today said it had “no plans” to act on Mr Fraser’s pleas, arguing that there was no evidence the step had worked in the Southern Hemisphere.
Mr Fraser, of Stockbridge, said: “I was quite a fit 61-year-old, but I nearly died. I have two kids in New Zealand and my wife was told to get them over now because I might not see them again.”
Mr Fraser said he is now well on the road to recovery, but that warning labels should be added to compost.
“I’m not after publicity, I just want the warning labels,” he added. “I became very ill dealing with a bag of compost and I know there are five others.”
Mr Fraser came forward after the Evening News revealed how Margaret Malcolm, 72, was left close to death by the bug. The grandmother of ten, from Prestonpans, also called for warnings to be added to compost bags to highlight the risks, saying many people were oblivious to the dangers.
But the Scottish Government today appeared to pour cold water on the appeals for warnings to be added to packs.
A spokeswoman said: “The current British Institute of Standards guidance already requires manufacturers to provide generic information on safe handling and use of compost. There are currently no plans to introduce specific warning labels on bags of compost. Research has shown that specific labelling on this issue has little or no impact.”