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Errington cheese back on sale despite Scottish warning, death

Dbluecheese_406x250One of Scotland’s Errington Cheese Ltd.  products returned to the market earlier this week against the wishes of the country’s top food safety agency. Sales of the Errington cheeses were banned in September because of an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 that sickened 26 people and caused the death of a three-year-old child.

After getting the green light from the South Lanarkshire Council (SLC), Errington Cheese went ahead and resumed sales of its Corra Linn brand, a move that brought criticism from Food Standards Scotland (FSS).  Here’s what the various parties were saying as the week unfolded.

Errington Cheese Ltd.
The popular cheese maker this past fall resisted charges that it was responsible for the outbreak as “malicious prejudice against raw-milk cheese.” It has continued to insist that its products are safe and not connected to the outbreak.

The company says it is confused by the “apparent differences” between FSS and the SLC, and does not understand why the food alert “is being used in this way.” It plans to ask a court to decide if its cheeses are fit for consumption.

“All we can say before the court hearing is that we do not agree any of the allegations made against us,” said the company in a statement.

Food Standards Scotland
The food safety agency called the local government’s decision to allow the Errington Cheese brand back on the market “premature.” It also made it clear that its previous “action notice” about the need to keep the Errington cheeses off the market “remains in place to protect consumers.”

“Our advice remains that these cheeses should not be eaten,” FSS reported.

The food safety agency continued to warn the public not to eat Corra Linn, Dunsyre Blue, Lanark White, Maisie’s Kebbuck, Dunsyre Baby and Sir Lancelot cheeses. The agency did say that Errington Cheese Ltd. “has now, following several requests from Food Standards Scotland, suppled the results of its own laboratory testing.”

The federal agency said the local government analysis on which sales were allowed to resume is “incomplete.” It said the isolated testing results cannot provide sufficient assurance that the cheeses were produced safely. FSS said positive and negative testing results can occur from the same batch.

South Lanarkshire Council
The local/regional council is one of 32 unitary authorities of Scotland with jurisdiction in and around the City of Glasgow. A spokesman said the South Lanarkshire Council has “operated in the interests of public safety.”

“We will continue to do so while taking appreciate action at all times,” the spokesman said.

In addition to possible court action, Health Protection Scotland promises its own report on the outbreak will be out in March.

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