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Expert says Lanark Blue is unsafe

A SCIENTIST said yesterday there were no definite reported cases of food poisoning from listeria monocytogenes found in blue-veined cheeses but added that, in his academic opinion, Lanark Blue was not safe to eat.

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Bacteriologist Dr James Bruce was giving evidence on day three of the Lanark Blue cheese hearing at the town's sheriff court.

He said soft cheeses had been associated with listeriosis in humans but the different varieties of semi-hard blue vein cheeses had not.

His research had discovered a report that stated two out of 20 samples of different blue cheeses in the Netherlands were found to be contaminated with the organism.

Dr Bruce, 55, is head of the food microbiology unit at the Scottish Agricultural College, Auchincruive, Ayrshire, where 50 samples of Lanark Blue were tested.

Referring to a background report given in evidence to the court, he explained why he had included foreign reports of listeria monocytogenes.

Dr Bruce said: ''You can't give blue cheese a completely clean bill of health.

''The fact that the organism is there leads us to this possibility that there could be an outbreak of illness.''

Dr Bruce said all 50 samples of Lanark Blue treated at his unit were contaminated with the organism. He said it was his academic opinion that the Lanark Blue was not safe to eat.

There was no merit, he said, in the argument that the type of bacteria discovered was harmless.

Dr Bruce admitted he had no detailed knowledge of how Lanark Blue was produced from unpasteurised ewes' milk by Humphrey Errington at his farm near Dunsyre.

The allegedly contaminated cheese, worth #27,000, has been deep frozen at Mr Errington's farm since February.

Clydesdale District Council is seeking an order from the court to destroy the frozen cheese because it believes it is unfit for human consumption.

Cross-examined by Michael Jones QC, representing Mr Errington, Dr Bruce agreed that not all strains of the bacteria caused illness.

The hearing continues.

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