A Scots cheesemaker whose products were taken off the shelves during an E.Coli outbreak is taking legal action against Scotland’s food safety body to fight claims that it was the cause of the bug.
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 the food poisoning bug had eaten the company’s Dunsyre Blue cheese. A three year old girl died during the outbreak in July.
But owner Humphrey Errington, who has not been allowed to recommence production at his production site in South Lanarkshire, has claimed that FSS has not produced any evidence to support the charge that its products were connected to the outbreak and has launched a judicial review in a bid to save his 31-year-old business.
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.
Mr Errington, who has laid off 12 staff and mothballed his company indefinitely since all six cheeses were recalled by FSS in September, said he was “in the dark” about why his products have been withdrawn from sale and warned that the authorities were aiming to make cheese produced from unpasteurised milk illegal.
“We have been completely closed down,” he said. “We have been shown nothing by the authorities that experts consider to be pathogenic and we are not sure what we are being accused of.”
Ms Blythmann, who is the author of numerous books about the food industry, said the campaign, which aims to raise £50,000, was also aimed at protecting the Scottish artisan food sector.
“The only redress the Erringtons have is to take them to judicial review,” said Ms Blythmann. “This is not just about Errington Cheeses, this is about creating a climate in which it is impossible for Scotland to have an artisan food industry.”
In a statement issued after the blanket ban was issued, the FSS claimed 19 of the people affected had consumed blue cheese, with 15 of them confirming the type of cheese as Dunsyre Blue. They said samples of Dunsyre Blue and Lanark White had tested “presumptive positive” for shiga toxin-producing E. coli. Though E. coli 0157 and non-0157 E. coli was detected in one sample of Lanark White cheese, it was not shown to contain the stx genes found in the people who had fallen ill. However a food examiner declared it was still “potentially injurious to health and/or unfit for human consumption”.
A child has died in Scotland as a result of the outbreak of food poisoning bug E.coli linked to blue cheese, health chiefs have revealed.
The youngster is one of 20 people north of the Border to have become ill after ingesting the 0157 strain of the bacteria earlier in the summer. Eleven people required hospital treatment for the illness, which has been linked to the consumption of Dunsyre Blue – a Scottish artisan blue cheese.
Symptoms associated with E.coli O157 can include stomach cramps, diarrhoea, vomiting and occasionally fever.
It is expected that the case will be heard in Edinburgh's Court of Session within the next month.