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Errington Cheese targets market return after E. coli outbreak

By Joe Whitworth+

12-Jan-2017

Lanark Blue. Picture: Errington Cheese
Lanark Blue. Picture: Errington Cheese

Errington Cheese is planning to put some of its products back on the market after authorities prohibited sales following an E. coli outbreak last year.

E. coli O157 sickened 26 people with 13 hospitalised and the death of a three year old child in 2016.

Food Standards Scotland (FSS) established 15 ill people ate Dunsyre Blue, a variety made by Errington Cheese, and 19 of 22 confirmed cases ate blue cheese prior to becoming ill.

The cheese was banned from sale in September last year and the company said it had to lay-off its 12-strong workforce.

Errington Cheese said it believes cheese is safe and there was no link between its products and the E. coli outbreak.

Lanark Blue and Corra Linn back on market

Humphrey Errington, founder of the company, said it is intending to put product back on the market from Monday unless South Lanarkshire Council use statutory powers to stop it.

Corra Linn. Picture: Errington Cheese

“We have written to South Lanarkshire Council to tell them that, after extensive investigation and receipt of advice from a variety of experts, we are satisfied that our cheese is safe to eat and therefore intend to put, in the first instance, our Lanark Blue and Corra Linn back on the market.

“We can only do so with the agreement of the council and, while we await their response, we can only hope that they consider our decision in the collaborative and constructive manner which has characterised our relationship with them for the past twenty years.

“We are delaying a decision regarding sales of Dunsyre Blue in order to give Food Standards Scotland the chance to reveal the epidemiological evidence which they claim links that cheese to the outbreak of illness.”

FSS said tests were by accredited testing labs and results verified by scientists at reference labs in Scotland and England.

Public Health England is also involved as it is doing whole genome sequencing.

However, Actalia, a specialist dairy testing lab, found the E. coli strain identified by FSS in an unsold batch of cheese did not have genes that would make it toxic.

Artisan community unites

Meanwhile, representatives from the Scottish food scene are launching a body to highlight threats to the future of artisan food following the dispute between Errington Cheese Company and FSS.

The group said the regulatory environment favours large-scale industrial processed food and endangers the existence of artisan food culture in Scotland.

The Committee for the Defence of Artisan Food launches at a public meeting on 2 February (7pm), in The Sanctuary, at Augustine United Church, 41-43 George IV Bridge, in Edinburgh.

Speakers include Humphrey Errington, Wendy Barrie, director Scottish Food Guide and Scottish Cheese Trail, Joanna Blythman, food journalist and creator of a fundraising page.

Fred Berkmiller, chef proprietor, L'escargot Bleu & L'escargot Blanc restaurants; Pamela Brunton, chef/co-owner, Inver Restaurant, Argyll; Jeremy Dixon, fine food restaurant supplier; Ben Reade, chef, Edinburgh Food Studio; Caroline Rye, chair of Slow Food Edinburgh and Christopher Trotter Fife Food Ambassador and writer are among the members.

A crowdfunding page set up to help the Errington family pay for legal costs relating to the ban on its cheese has raised almost half of its £50,000 (€58,000) goal.

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