Food watchdog bans cheesemaker's whole output over E.coli fears

A food watchdog has said its recall of all cheese from a producer linked to an E.coli outbreak is justified as it revealed two new cases are being investigated.

Monday, 19th September 2016, 11:30 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th October 2016, 2:19 pm
Errington Cheese - Credit: Michael Rummey JFL-140923-142114003

Food Standards officers issued a blanket ban on cheese made by Errington Cheese, saying tests on various types had found strains of E.coli O157.

Dunsyre Blue cheese had been linked to an E.coli outbreak in July in which 20 people were infected, including a three-year-old Scottish girl who died.

The same strain has now infected two further people, one of whom is being treated in hospital.

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Batches of Dunsyre Blue and Lanark White cheese produced by Errington Cheese had already been recalled but this has now been extended to include all cheese products from the firm.

These are: Lanark Blue; Lanark White; Dunsyre Blue; Dunsyre Baby; Maisie’s Kebbuck; Cora Linn and Sir Lancelot.

Errington Cheese largely distributes its products in Scotland but also supplies food businesses in England.

An Food Standards Scotland statement said: “Of the 22 confirmed cases to date, the IMT has established that 19 had eaten blue cheese prior to becoming ill.

“Of these, 15 are known to have eaten Dunsyre Blue while others cannot be certain about the brand of blue cheese they consumed. Investigations are ongoing on the other cases.”

The agency said the decision to recall of all the company’s cheese was “not taken lightly”.

It added: “FSS is fully aware of the impact on the business but its priority is to protect public health.

“Potentially harmful strains of E.coli and the shiga toxin genes that can cause illness in humans have been found in a number of different batches of different cheeses produced by Errington Cheese Ltd.

“This means that FSS is not satisfied that the controls and production methods used by the business are producing safe food.

“Furthermore, the reliance on a limited number of negative test results as evidence that the food is safe provides insufficient assurance, as it is clear that multiple samples across different cheese batches have had positive results.

“Throughout this incident FSS has taken a proportionate approach based on the evidence and it considers that the evidence now justifies a full recall of Errington Cheese Ltd. products to ensure the protection of public health.”

Errington Cheese has issued a statement saying all of its testing has found no trace of E.coli O157, which FSS claims is “inaccurate”.

The firm said: “We have used micro testing laboratories in the UK and Europe and found no trace of pathogens, we have shown results of all our testing and all local authority testing to date to various microbiological experts which has enabled us to come to this decision.”

HPS said initial investigations “suggest there may be a link” between a recent outbreak of the infection in Angus, which led to a playgroup being temporarily closed, and the earlier outbreak, and investigations continue.

HPS said they are unable to disclose where the two new cases are due to patient confidentiality rules. NHS Tayside said it is investigating linked cases of E.coli O157 affecting a “small number of children” in the region.