Errington Cheese’s ‘E.coli outbreak’ court case date set

The Scottish E.coli O157 outbreak was blamed on Errington Cheese by a Health Protection Scotland report

The Scottish cheesemaker blamed for the fatal E.coli O157 outbreak last year will try to prove its Lanark Blue and Corra Linn cheeses are safe to eat, at court next month.

Lanark Sheriff Court will hear Errington Cheese’s case as it attempts to “rescue [its] name and reputation from damaging allegations, based on prejudice and bad science”, said the company. The court will hear the case between June 1 and June 15.

A Health Protection Scotland (HPS) report claimed the firm’s Dunsyre Blue raw cheese was the source of the Scottish E.coli O157 outbreak last year.

Both Lanark Blue and Corra Linn are made from sheep’s cheese, which has never caused shiga toxin-producing E.coli (STEC) illness, Errington Cheese said.

An Errington Cheese statement read: “It is a relief that finally we have the opportunity to show a court that our cheese is safe to eat.

“We firmly believe that Dunsyre Blue did not cause the outbreak last year.”

Identified E.coli in cheeses over four months

The cheese firm’s claims came after an Incident Management Team (IMT) – commissioned by HPS to investigate the outbreak – identified E.coli in cheeses produced over a period of four months. The investigation’s findings were published on March 29.

Food Standards Scotland (FSS) supported the investigation’s findings, and backed its evidence of Errington Cheese’s link to the E.coli outbreak ahead of the court hearing next month.

An FSS spokesman told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “Food Standards Scotland stands by the evidence, stands by the science and stands by the decisions we have taken to protect public health.

“As there is now an ongoing court case we have no intention of risking contempt of court by commenting on ongoing legal proceedings.”

‘Lack of logic and many errors’

But, Errington Cheese claimed more scientific opinion evidence was needed. It said: “We have asked food safety, epidemiological, and microbiological experts to study the report and they are all highly critical of the manner of the investigation, the bias, the lack of logic and the many errors.”

Numerous tests proved Dunsyre Blue was the cause of the E.coli outbreak in July and September 2016, the HPS report claimed. Potentially pathogenic E.coli were able to enter and survive the cheese production process at Errington Cheese, it said. However, the strain of E.coli found in the cheese was not E.coli O157.

Last year’s outbreak hospitalised 17 people, after the E.coli was identified in 26 individuals. One person – a three-year-old girl – died. All production staff at Errington Cheese have been laid off since it was initially linked with the outbreak, it said. For more information, see the interactive timeline below.

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