Errington Cheese and FSS E.coli row rolls on

By Matt Atherton

- Last updated on GMT

Errington Cheese has dropped its application for a judicial review of Food Standards Scotland's decision making process
Errington Cheese has dropped its application for a judicial review of Food Standards Scotland's decision making process

Related tags Errington cheese Cheese

The row between Errington Cheese and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) continued this week, after FSS rejected claims it offered to pay the cheesemaker’s legal fees in full, in return for the firm dropping its application for a judicial review of a destruction order of its products.

Errington Cheese dropped the application on November 9, after FSS promised to share its scientific evidence with Errington Cheese and pay its legal fees in full, claimed the cheesemaker. It also claimed FSS admitted the destruction order of £20,000 of stock in September was “unwarranted and unnecessary”​.

The Scottish cheese company had applied for a judicial review of FSS after the health watchdog accused the firm’s unpasteurised Dunsyre Blue product of containing E.coli, which the health watchdog claimed subsequently caused an outbreak of food poisoning. The outbreak led to 22 food poisoning cases in August – one of which led to the death of a three-year-old girl.

Errington Cheese had insisted its products were not responsible for the E.coli outbreak. On November 7, a leading European food safety laboratory in France said the E.coli​ strain singled out by FSS didn’t have the genetic makeup to be harmful. FSS had refused to share its evidence with Errington Cheese, the company claimed.

Cleared the cheese firm of any link to E.coli

An Errington Cheese statement said: “We believed it was incumbent as a matter of fairness for FSS to share the evidence which they have been relying on.”​ FSS has now started to share its evidence with the company, it revealed on November 9.

“Today ​[November 9] FSS put a proposal to us asking us to drop our judicial review in return for them agreeing to pay the legal costs of this particular action. In light of the recent change in stance by FSS we have agreed to accept this proposal. Consequently, this particular judicial review will now not proceed.”

The Lanarkshire-based cheese firm said it continued to believe its cheese was safe and fit for human consumption. While FSS has started sharing its evidence with the company, Errington Cheese claimed it was yet to be provided with “any evidence to substantiate their allegations about there being a link between Dunsyre Blue and the outbreak of the illness”.

Errington Cheese said: “It continues to be the case that we are currently prevented from selling any cheese by the authorities. We continue to fight to re-open our business and to establish the truth of our position.”

But, FFS said it “does not recognise some of the comments from Errington Cheese”,​ and that “FSS has not agreed to pay Errington Cheese’s legal fees in full.”​ It claimed it agreed to only pay the reasonable judicial expenses incurred in connection with the launch of the judicial review.

‘FSS does not recognise some of the comments from Errington Cheese’

While the health watchdog confirmed it had revised its stance on the destruction order, it remained adamant that Errington Cheese’s Dunsyre Blue contained E.coli​.

FSS said: “Samples taken by South Lanarkshire Council from different batches of a range of different cheeses produced by Errington Cheese over a four month period tested positive for E.coli O157 and for other (non-O157) strains of toxin-producing E.coli.

“These samples were tested by fully accredited testing laboratories, and the results verified by expert scientists at reference laboratories in Scotland and England. The detection of these organisms in ready to eat food potentially presents a serious risk to human health.”

The FSS said it understood production of Errington Cheese production had halted because South Lanarkshire Council had not agreed a revised food safety plan, and the business cannot reopen until that was agreed.

Meanwhile, the FSS today (November 11) released four risk assessments​ relating to the case: each update reflecting the emergence of new information, it said. 

Errington Cheese case timeline

  • November 10 – Errington Cheese dropped judicial review after FSS starts sharing evidence
  • November 7​ – Independent French lab found no evidence of E.coli​ in cheese
  • October 31​ – Errington Cheese embarked on judicial review against FSS
  • October 24​ – FSS withdraws destruction order of £20,000 of company stock
  • September 15​ – FSS bans sale of all Errington Cheese products
  • September 8​ – FSS declared E.coli​ outbreak over
  • August 17​ – Errington Cheese accused FSS of ‘malicious prejudice’ against unpasteurised cheese
  • August 1​ – Total of 16 people hospitalised over E.coli​ outbreak. FSS blamed Errington Cheese

Related topics Food Safety Dairy

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