Pressure is mounting on Food Standards Scotland to clarify the risks posed by cheeses at the centre of an E.coli outbreak which killed a three year old child and left 19 other people suffering from the illness.
Statements issued by the agency have previously revealed that tests have found that the cheese, Dunsyre Blue, “may contain” E.Coli 0157 bacteria, but have refused to confirm whether the bug has actually been found in the product.
Symptoms can develop up to two weeks after someone has ingested the bacteria, which can cause stomach cramps, diarrhoea, vomiting and fever.
Scottish Conservative public health spokesman Miles Briggs said the uncertainty left many people who may have consumed the cheese in limbo as to whether they are at risk or not.
He said: “People will be understandably confused about what is going on here with a significant public health matter.
“It’s so important that government agencies are transparent in these circumstances.
“Unfortunately, it appears the opposite is happening, and that will do nothing to reassure an increasingly concerned public.”
It is understood that a meeting was held yesterday to discuss the outbreak, but a spokeswoman refused to comment on the content of the meeting, instead issuing a statement reiterating an announcement made on 5 September, saying that the initial outbreak had been declared to be over.
However, since 5 September, two more batches of cheese have been recalled from the market - another batch of Dunsyre Blue and a second cheese made by Errington, Lanark White, which it said had tested positive for E.Coli, but admitted it “may not” carry shiga toxins, which are produced by the bacteria and are what makes a person ill.
The manufacturer of the product, Errington Cheeses, has claimed that no E.coli bacteria has yet been found in its Dunsyre Blue product and questioned the methods used to test Lanark White. Owner Humphrey Errington has claimed there is a “malicious prejudice against raw-milk cheese”. Food Standards Scotland has refused to comment.
The first batch of Dunsyre Blue was recalled on 29 July after Food Standards Scotland reported that it was the “likely source” of the outbreak.
It is understood that no-one else has fallen ill since the initial voluntary recall of Dunsyre Blue on 29 July. The final outbreak report from the multi-agency Incident Management Team (IMT) chaired by Health Protection Scotland at the start of the outbreak may take up to six months.