Cheese linked with E.coli death ‘not a risk to health’

Errington Cheese products. Picture: TSPL
Errington Cheese products. Picture: TSPL
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Cheeses produced by a firm who were linked to an E.coli outbreak which claimed the life of a three-year-old child did not present a significant risk to health, a court has heard.

Dr Richard North, a food safety consultant, said evidence relied upon to show Errington Cheese’s products contained harmful levels of the bacteria was “flawed”.

The company were linked to the outbreak of E.coli 0157 in 2016 in which the three-year-old girl died.

No traces of E.coli 0157 were found in cheeses made by Errington but other types of the bacteria were which led food safety agencies to name its Dunsyre Blue as the source of the outbreak.

Following an investigation the Crown Office said there would be no criminal proceedings because of a lack of evidence linking the firm to the death of the young girl from Dunbartonshire.

A range of Errington 
products are made from unpasteurised milk on their farm in Carnwath, Lanarkshire, and environmental workers seized batches of their Lanark Blue and Corra Linn as a result of the outbreak.

The firm is locked in a battle with South Lanarkshire Council who are attempting to have cheese produced by the manufacturer declared unfit for human consumption and destroyed.

A civil hearing at Hamilton Sheriff Court heard Dr North, 69, a former public health inspector, say the council were wrong to conclude that the cheese making process would not kill traces of harmful E.coli.

Under questioning by the company’s founder Humphrey Errington, he said: “The law accepts that E.coli are part of the normal flora of the food we eat.

“We eat it every day without fail, they are on your hands probably right now.”

He added: “The burden of food-borne disease from sheep’s milk cheese throughout Europe is nil. If this was a high risk product you would inevitably see disease.”

Dr North later said that he disagreed with the decision by Food Standards Scotland to issue a ‘food alert for action’ (FAFA) which prohibited the sale of Errington Cheese products.

He added: “One of the productions states that they are a risk to health, that’s not true. Just because an official authority makes a statement that doesn’t mean it’s true.”

The hearing continues.