The artisan cheesemaker embroiled in a row with food safety authorities over an E.coli outbreak last year is in discussion with officials to be allowed to sell its stock of Dunsyre Blue cheese to catering and manufacturing facilities.
The news comes as Errington Cheese, which had its products seized by South Lanarkshire Council last week, is today set to attend a hearing at Lanark Sheriff Court to decide whether or not the local authority will destroy the cheese or return it to market.
It is understood that if the product did contain pathogenic strain of E.coli which could cause illness, cooking it at high temperatures would destroy the bug, making it safe to eat.
All products made by Errington Cheeses were recalled by Food Standards Scotland in September amid allegations that several of the 20 people struck down by an outbreak of the food poisoning bug in the summer had eaten the company’s Dunsyre Blue cheese. A three year old girl died during the outbreak in July.
Cheesemaker Humphrey Errington, who has not been allowed to recommence production at his production site in South Lanarkshire, has claimed that Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has not produced any evidence to support the charge that its products were connected to the outbreak but has so far not been allowed to recommence manufacturing at his 31-year-old business.
Mr Errington, who laid off 12 staff and mothballed his company since all six of his cheeses cheeses were recalled by FSS in September, said: “We are in discussion with the council about doing this. If there is a nasty bug in it, which we believe there isn’t, then it would destroy it.”
Today’s court case is likely to be deferred for around ten days, after which time it will be decided whether South Lanarkshire Council should destroy the seized cheese, or allow Errington to begin selling it once again.
Errington last month announced that it intended to begin selling its Lanark Blue cheese, which sparked a decision by South Lanarkshire Council to “detain” the cheese, a move which a judge later said was “unlawful and irrational”. In response, the council then seized the products under section 9 of the Food Safety Act 1990, which gave it 21 days to test the cheese and if necessary, take it to court.
A spokesman for South Lanarkshire Council confirmed it was in talks over whether it would allow Errington Cheese to sell to outlets which would cook its Dunsyre Blue cheese.
It said: “Discussions are ongoing.”
FSS has insisted that its own tests show the presence of E.coli bugs.
Food writer Joanna Blythmann has launched a crowdfunding campaign on JustGiving to pay for Errington Cheese’s legal costs in a bid to protect artisan food producers north of the border, so far raising more than £30,000.