Asked if the laundry would be changing procedures, Sunlight’s director of human resources Martin Roberts told LCN he believed it was not laundry procedures that needed to be changed, but the hospital’s. It was normal practice, said Mr Roberts, for linen to be sorted after washing.

Mr Roberts told The Independent: “Obviously, it is regrettable from Sunlight’s point of view… I know that the hospital has offered its apologies.” He added that Sunlight had counselled the employee that found the baby’s body.

The incident, which came to public attention at the end of January, occurred in December last year at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Sidcup.

Helen Moffatt, chief executive of Queen Mary’s Hospital, said the mistake could have occurred because mortuary staff took babies’ bodies from refrigerated cabinets and left them on the floor wrapped in white blankets, near to the laundry basket, according to a report in The Times.

In a Daily Telegraph report Ms Moffatt said it was “a tragic incident that would never be repeated”. She said new procedures had been introduced in the mortuary, including the use of opaque boxes for bodies instead of sheets, and the removal of the laundry basket from the area. One member of staff was suspended after the incident and others are being investigated.

Mr Roberts said police had been notified immediately the baby’s body was found. Police officers had taken the body away and Sunlight had given them every assistance.

The majority of healthcare laundries follow the same procedures as Sunlight. Mr Roberts views are confirmed by other representatives of the laundry industry.

Ian Hargreaves, president of the Society of Hospital Laundry Managers and Linen Services, said the responsibility in such cases lay with the customer: “I feel very sorry for Sunlight. This could happen in any NHS hospital laundry.” He said his own staff were very upset by the incident.

Mr Hargreaves explained that current guidelines (HSG9518) recommend that anything which is potentially infectious must be enclosed in a dissoluble bag and go straight into the wash, and the linen sorted after washing. Some laundries, he said, held the view that all healthcare linen should be treated in this way.

Mr Hargreaves believed the responsibility lay with the hospital. “The safeguards should have been there so [the baby’s body] never got out of the hospital.”

Murray Simpson, chief executive, of the Textile Services Association, said: “It’s tragic for the family and awful for the laundry staff who found the baby. It appears procedures fell down on the hospital side, not the laundry side.”