An outbreak of E. coli has sickened at least 30 people in the United Kingdom.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA), Food Standards Scotland (FSS), and UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) warned people that a type of raw milk cheese may be contaminated with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC).

Four of Mrs. Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese products have been recalled as a precaution. They are mild and creamy Lancashire, tasty Lancashire, mature Lancashire, and smoked Lancashire. All use-by dates of all batches purchased since Oct. 2023 are affected.

There have been at least 30 confirmed cases of E. coli O145 in the UK. UKHSA will release more details in the coming days.

Identifying affected cheese
Tina Potter, head of incidents at the FSA, said: “We are aware that this recalled product may be popular over the festive period, especially as it has been sold as part of a Christmas gift hamper and so we are urging consumers to check whether they have bought or been gifted this product.”

The cheeses are sometimes served as part of a hamper, as individual portions or can be purchased as a gift set or block. Consumers were advised to contact the retailer they bought cheese from to determine if it was from the business and the batches affected.

FSA, UKHSA, and local authorities are investigating the outbreak, and FSA said further recalls may be undertaken if more products are found to be affected. 

A statement on Mrs. Kirkham’s website said no testing had been carried out on products for the specific E. coli type to confirm contamination.

“We are working with our environmental health officers and the FSA to resolve this matter. Our modern and purpose-built facility is accredited to the Safe And Local Supplier Approval + Cheese (SALSA) standard. As a member of the Specialist Cheesemakers Association, we are always careful to adhere to their code of best practice within our business.

“We are now in a state of limbo until laboratories reopen and resume testing. We will investigate further as soon as they do, together with the FSA. We will suspend all orders until investigations are completed, and we have some answers.”

About E. coli
Anyone who has eaten any of the implicated products and developed symptoms of E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor about their possible food poisoning. 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, tiredness, 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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