E.coli cheese link rejected by French lab

By Noli Dinkovski

- Last updated on GMT

Dunsyre Blue: The Errington-produced cheese contains ‘no harmful bacteria’, according to Actalia
Dunsyre Blue: The Errington-produced cheese contains ‘no harmful bacteria’, according to Actalia

Related tags Errington cheese Cheese Escherichia coli

A cheesemaker implicated in an E.coli outbreak that led to the death of three-year-old girl has been given the all-clear by a leading European food safety laboratory.

Errington Cheese has been banned from selling its products after a Food Standards Scotland (FSS) investigation found its unpasteurised Dunsyre Blue product was linked to the summer outbreak, which also resulted in 15 people being hospitalised.

The Lanarkshire-based artisan cheese company said it faced closure unless it was allowed to resume selling its stock.

An Incident Management Team (IMT), chaired by Health Protection Scotland, found that of the 22 overall confirmed cases in the outbreak, 15 were known to have eaten Dunsyre Blue.

However, Actalia’s milk testing laboratory in France found the E.coli O157​ strain singled out by FSS did not have the genetic make-up that would have made it harmful.

E.coli strains present

Actalia carried out tests on the E.coli​ strains present in five Errington cheeses, and found none of them contained the necessary genes, according to The Scotsman​.

In a statement to the paper, Ronan Calvez, the microbiologist in charge of the tests, said: “A great deal of cheese consumed in France is made from unpasteurised milk.

“The laboratories that test the safety of these products are of the very highest microbiological standards, and have developed sophisticated testing regimes to ensure that no bacteria containing harmful toxins are present in any cheese sold.

“Actalia laboratories are confident that no harmful bacteria are present in the five Errington cheeses tested.”

FSS stood by its claim that the bacteria in the cheese produced by Errington was unfit for human consumption.

It said: “Samples taken by South Lanarkshire Council (SLC) from different batches of cheese produced by Errington Cheese Ltd have tested positive for E. coli O157 and for another (non-O157) strain of toxin-producing E. coli.

‘Unsatisfactory and potentially injurious’

“The food examiner was of the opinion that the presence of these organisms in food was unsatisfactory and potentially injurious to health and/or unfit for human consumption.

“In addition, the Scottish E.coli O157/VTEC reference laboratory confirmed that these types of organisms had been implicated in serious human illness in Scotland.

FSS added that the analysis of samples taken by SLC had been carried out using accredited methods in official UK laboratories.

Last month, Errington won a battle to keep £20,000 of stock after FSS withdrew an order to destroy all of its remaining cheese. It has now petitioned for a judicial review to overturn the ban on selling.

A crowdfunding campaign to raise £50,000 to help keen Errington in business has been set up by food journalist Joanna Blythman.

The campaign, to help cover the legal fees accrued by the “small, highly respected family-run company that pioneered raw milk cheesemaking in Scotland”​ has so far raised £13,795.

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