Council halts market return for Errington Cheese

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

Dunsyre Blue made by Errington Cheese
Dunsyre Blue made by Errington Cheese

Related tags: Escherichia coli, Cheese

Errington Cheese has been halted in plans to go back to market after a link to an E. coli outbreak last year.

The cheese was banned from sale in September after an E. coli O157 outbreak which sickened 26 people and was linked to the death of a three year old child.

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

Cheese detained

The firm had intended to put Lanark Blue and Corra Linn cheese back on the market from yesterday (Monday) after writing to South Lanarkshire Council (SLC).

However, the council said environmental health officers had to detain the cheese for further tests and prevented it being sold again.

Michael McGlynn, executive director of community and enterprise resources, said it had been in discussions with Errington Cheese (ECL) throughout the process. 

“As part of this we have made clear to ECL what steps need to be taken before these cheeses can be put on the market, including tests that must be carried out so that we are satisfied that it is safe to do so," ​he said.

“However, given that ECL has indicated that it intends to continue with its plan to sell these cheeses before we know the results of those tests, environmental health officers have had no choice other than to detain those cheeses to prevent them being put on the market.”

McGlynn said the sole purpose is to guarantee public safety.

Process moving forward

Errington Cheese said SLC detained the entire stock of Lanark Blue and Corra Linn at the end of last week.

“Detention is the statutory provision available to the authority in a situation where officials believe either, that the food was not produced in line with regulations or that…the food represents an imminent risk to health,”​ added the firm.

Errington Cheese said it was told the cheese represented an imminent risk to health because it was produced on the same premises as Dunsyre Blue.

Food Standards Scotland (FSS) established 15 people ate Dunsyre Blue and 19 of 22 confirmed cases in the outbreak ate blue cheese prior to becoming ill.

The agency said tests were done by accredited testing labs and results verified by reference labs in Scotland and England.

The firm had said it was delaying a decision regarding sales of Dunsyre Blue to give FSS the chance to reveal the epidemiological evidence which linked the cheese to the outbreak of illness.

Errington Cheese said the effect of the detention is that it cannot yet sell cheese.

“For their part, SLC now has a duty to act “expeditiously” in sampling and testing the detained cheeses; after 21 days of detention we believe the authorities must either release the cheese for us to sell it or take it to a Sheriff with evidence of unfitness for human consumption.”

The Food Safety Act 1990 s.9 states that in Scotland permission must be obtained from a Sheriff by way of a summary application when officers detain suspect food or seize it.

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

Related topics: Regulation & Safety, Cheese

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