A POPULAR food store has been closed after dozens of people went down with the food bug salmonella.

So far, 35 cases have been confirmed, and doctors fear another ten people could also have the infection. Health experts believe more cases will come to light over the weekend.

Three people affected by the bug are being treated in hospital.

Officials said the most likely source of the outbreak is meat sold at Robson's Fresh Foods in Front Street, Stanley.

Derwentside District Council issued an emergency prohibition order closing the store last Thursday, after health experts raised the alarm.

The Health Protection Agency's Outbreak Control Team chairman Dr Deb Wilson said: "So far, we have identified one possible link to a particular food outlet in Stanley and meat products.

"The outlet is Robson's Fresh Foods in Stanley. No other outlets have as yet been identified, but investigations are ongoing."

Salmonella infections cause a range of symptoms, including diarrhoea, abdominal pain, headache, vomiting and fever.

Dr Wilson said: "As a precautionary measure, our advice to the public is that any meat products in their fridges and pantries, purchased from Robson's Fresh Foods should not be eaten and should be thrown away."

The store is well known in north Durham for its pies, cooked meats and hot meat sandwiches.

Derwentside Primary Care Trust public health director Dr Ann Low called for calm.

She said: "The message we need to get across is that there is nothing for people to be alarmed about. The majority of people who get salmonella infection recover without any specific treatment.

"It is important if you get diarrhoea to drink plenty of liquid.

"There is only a minority that need to be admitted to hospital for more intensive rehydration and maybe antibiotic treatment."

She urged people to observe basic food hygiene by washing their hands with soap and water before preparing food, and warned that no one with diarrhoea should prepare food.

Anyone who has severe diarrhoea lasting more than 48 hours should contact NHS Direct on 0845 4647 or their GP.