FSA extends French cheese alert amid E-coli fears

By Chris Mercer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Milk, Food standards agency

The E-coli food alert on some French camembert brands has been
extended to more products in the UK, as the country's food watchdog
says batches may have found their way on to food fairs and farmers'
markets.

The Food Standards Agency said it had extended its food alert to Coulommier cheese, as well as camembert, under the brand names Reo, Reaux, Laiterie du Val d'Ay & Le Gaslonde.

The unpasteurised cheeses, which come from France and are sold in many UK retailers including Waitrose, may contain the pathogen E-coli 026. This can cause severe food poisoning if ingested.

The FSA said it now feared the suspect cheese was being sold on food fairs and farmers' markets, after local authority investigations revealed some of the cheese had been imported directly from the French producer, Val D'Ay-Etablissement REAUX.

This may make some batches harder to trace from the UK.

Anthony Rowcliffe & Son, which distributes some of Val D'Ay's camembert brands to more than 80 retailers, instigated a full product recall on Sunday after being informed of the problem by the FSA.

An FSA spokesperson said on Tuesday the alert was a "precautionary measure"​ and no contaminated cheese had been found in Britain.

Jan Shawe, Rowcliffe spokesperson, said it was too early to say where the problem had come from. She said the French producer had some ideas but was currently working on tests with food safety authorities in France.

French health agency Institut de Veille Sanitaire announced Friday that it suspected camembert from Val D'Ay had given at least four infants, aged between 10 months and two years, food poisoning at the start of December.

Val D'AY is recalling the affected cheeses and Le Gaslonde butter, which are sold across France in some of the country's biggest supermarkets, including Carrefour and Auchan.

The firm, which has annual sales of around €11m, also exports to other European countries, such as Germany, Belgium and Italy.

Rowcliffe's Shawe rejected arguments that unpasteurised dairy products were unsafe. "If you follow the regulations properly then you're as safe as houses."

The FSA said it was too early to comment on whether the E.coli scare would lead to a change in the rules for dairy products made from raw milk.

The watchdog already warns on its website that "young children, elderly people, pregnant women and people who are ill should avoid unpasteurised milk"​.

Related topics: Regulation & Safety, Cheese

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