Leader comment: Cheese ban a necessary precaution

Errington Cheese has been linked to a national outbreak of E.coli.

Errington Cheese has been linked to a national outbreak of E.coli.

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The latest developments in the national E.coli outbreak are both concerning and unsatisfactory at the same time.

Official tests have identified strains of the deadly bug in a number of Errington Cheese products, including the South Lanarkshire producer’s famous Dunsyre Blue.

Yet the owner argues there is nothing wrong with his cheese, after the firm had a string of independent tests carried out.

Then E.coli expert Professor Hugh Pennington questioned whether Food Standards Scotland was “overinterpreting scientific evidence”.

The chain of events will leave many none the wiser as to whether the cheese is safe or not.

FSS has an important mandate to protect public health and they would not have taken the decision to ban the cheese lightly. They know what it would cost the reputation of a business of that size.

However they have no option but to take this action if the evidence flags up safety concerns.

E.coli is deadly, sadly shown by the death of a three-year-old girl from Dunbartonshire. Any potential risk must be immediately minimised.

Yet the lengthy saga has been confusing for the public, as well as deeply concerning for both the business and those affected.

Health Protection Scotland has defended the probe, saying the illness can manifest weeks after a product has been eaten so it is hard to tell where the infection began.

But an investigation affecting so many people surely must be immediate and conclusive, to avoid leaving Errington Cheese in the kind of limbo that could kill off the product entirely - E.coli or not.

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