The manufacturer of a Scottish cheese believed to have been linked to an outbreak of stomach bug E.coli has hit out at the claims, saying it is a “malicious prejudice against raw-milk cheese”.
Humphrey Errington, owner of Errington Cheeses, which manufactures Dunsyre Blue, a blue cheese which was recalled from sale last month after being deemed the likely cause of the outbreak of the 0157 strain of the bug, said that the claim was “untrue”.
He said that all Dunsyre Blue had tested negative for E.coli and claimed that most of the people who had been diagnosed with the illness and not eaten any blue cheese.
Health Protection Scotland said on Friday that the number of people with the infection had risen to 19. Symptoms associated with E.coli O157 can include stomach cramps, diarrhoea, vomiting and occasionally fever.
He told The Scotsman: “Health Protection Scotland’s claim that the 19 ill people had consumed Dunsyre Blue is untrue according to the data which they themselves have released; of the 19 ill people, seven may have eaten blue cheese (not necessarily Dunsyre Blue); some never ate any blue cheese.”
He added: “We can now say with absolute confidence that, following comprehensive tests and the examination of them by an independent expert microbiologist, there is no evidence whatever for any link to the recent outbreak of illness; the government agency tests have all also proved negative.
“We have to conclude that the HPS/FSS position is based on a malicious prejudice against raw-milk cheese, and that this threatens not just our business but the reputation of the whole British artisan cheese industry, one of the great success stories of recent years.”
He said one of his major customers in London had stopped ordering the award-winning cheese.
A spokeswoman for Health Protection Scotland said Dunsyre Blue “remains the most likely source of this outbreak”.
She said: “Based on the detailed information available, Dunsyre Blue cheese remains the most likely source of this outbreak, with confirmed cases becoming unwell between July 2 and 15.
“It would not be appropriate to respond in more detail at present as investigations have not yet concluded. However a formal outbreak report will be produced after the investigation is declared over.”