A dairy in an English town has been linked to an outbreak of E. coli, with 18 people sick. Darwin’s Dairy has been advised to recall all whole, skimmed and semi-skimmed milk and cream products currently in circulation.

Barnsley Council and Public Health England (PHE) informed residents across South Yorkshire of the recall. They did not mention the strain of E. coli involved.

Half of patients had the dairy’s products
PHE Yorkshire and the Humber noted an increase in E. coli cases in South Yorkshire but the dairy has not yet been confirmed as the source of the outbreak. Nine of the 18 ill people consumed Darwin’s Dairy products before becoming sick.

In a joint statement, Julia Burrows, director of public health at Barnsley Council, and Dr. Nachi Arunachalam, consultant in communicable disease control at PHE Yorkshire and the Humber, said it advised the dairy to take recall action.

“This became necessary after a potential processing problem was identified with the pasteurization process that could have affected some milk and cream products that could still be stored in people’s fridges.”

Products can be identified by a Darwin’s logo on the container either “Darwin’s Dairy” or “NP & DJ Darwin Ltd”, wording saying: “produced at Whitefield Farm, Oxspring, Barnsley” or an oval mark with “UK YB006 EC” inside it.

Burrows and Arunachalam said the dairy was cooperating with the recall.

“If you have bought these products, do not eat or drink them but dispose of them. Environmental health officers visited the dairy after Public Health England Yorkshire and the Humber became aware of an increase in E. coli cases in South Yorkshire, though it is important to be aware that the dairy has not been confirmed as the source of the outbreak at this stage.

“A total of 18 confirmed or probable cases have been identified in people with links to Barnsley, Doncaster or Sheffield in November 2019. Nine of these cases are known to have consumed Darwin’s Dairy products before becoming unwell. Those affected are recovering at home and in hospital.”

Company says there is no evidence of link
In a post on the firm’s Facebook page, Darwin’s Dairy operators said the link between the illnesses and their products was “pure speculation.”

“I would like to clarify that there is no confirmed link or evidence with the health issues highlighted in the councils statement, it’s pure speculation and I am deeply upset and frustrated that such a statement can be released without sufficient evidence. We strive to supply our loyal customers with a quality local product that is regularly tested to the highest standards required,” a statement on the Facebook page says.

Darwin’s Dairy has sourced milk from a neighbor to continue doing doorstep deliveries and is waiting for the local authority to give the go ahead for the firm to start bottling milk again.

About E. coli infections
Anyone who has consumed any of the implicated products and developed symptoms of E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor about their possible exposure to the bacteria. Specific tests are required to diagnose the infections, which can mimic other illnesses.

The symptoms of E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Some patients may also have a fever. Most patients recover within five to seven days. Others can develop severe or life-threatening symptoms and complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

About 5 to 10 percent of those diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening kidney failure complication, known as a hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor.

Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent injuries or death. This condition can occur among people of any age but is most common in children younger than five years old because of their immature immune systems, older adults because of deteriorating immune systems, and people with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients.

People who experience HUS symptoms should immediately seek emergency medical care. People with HUS will likely be hospitalized because the condition can cause other serious and ongoing problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, brain damage, and neurologic problems.

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