Hereford-based cider firm HP Bulmer has pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety laws in connection with a fatal outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease.

The company admitted failing to ensure the safety of people not in their employment between September 2002 and November 2003, along with Nalco Ltd, a water treatment specialist which had a contract with the firm.

Barristers acting for the firms entered the guilty pleas at Worcester Crown Court after a prosecution brought by the Health and Safety Executive following an investigation into a Legionnaires’ outbreak in late 2003 which struck down 28 residents of and visitors to Hereford.

The court was told that the prosecution and barristers representing the two companies had yet to agree whether one or two people had died as a result of the outbreak, the source of which was traced to cooling towers at HP Bulmer’s site in Plough Lane.

HP Bulmer and Cheshire-based Nalco will be sentenced for the offence, which is punishable by an unlimited fine, on a date to be fixed.