THE family that produces the gourmet cheese at the centre of fresh concerns over a fatal E.coli outbreak say they will be made bankrupt after a food watchdog confirmed all its produce is to be destroyed.

Investigators confirmed that their probe has now been widened after two more people were identified as being infected bringing the number who were ill to 22, of which 13 have needed hospital treatment.

They are also examining whether cases of E.coli 0157 infection affecting children in the Angus area may also be linked.


Food Standards Scotland (FSS) on Wednesday issued a blanket ban on the sale of all cheese from Errington Cheese, of Carnwath, South Lanarkshire, the producer linked to the outbreak which led to the death of a three-year-old Dunbartonshire girl.

FSS explained for the first time details of tests during the seven-week long alert.

It confirmed E.coli non-O157 was detected in one sample of Dunsyre Blue produced by Lanarkshire-based Errington Cheese which is considered a "serious risk to public health".

It said 13 samples in different batches of Errington's Dunsyre Blue and one of Lanark White have tested “presumptive positive” for shiga toxin, which could be E.coli,  and are considered to be "potentially hazardous to health".


While E.coli 0157 was detected in one sample of Lanark White cheese it was not shown to contain stx genes which were found in people who were ill. However a food examiner declared it was "potentially injurious to health and/or unfit for human consumption".

All positive tests were still awaiting "further confirmatory testing". It was not clear when the testing took place.

A multi-agency Incident Management Team (IMT), that includes Health Protection Scotland and Food Standards Scotland’s Scottish arm has been reconvened to deal with the latest developments.

Ten days ago the IMT had declared the outbreak to be "over" and that it had stood down leaving the FSS working with South Lanarkshire Council to continue food safety investigation.

Investigators originally linked Dunsyre Blue cheese, produced by Errington Cheese, to the outbreak and batches of the product were recalled.


But despite the positive E.coli tests, the IMT says it is still to entirely prove that the cheese was harmful.

It remains in the same position investigators were in seven weeks ago, in that Dunsyre Blue is "the most likely" cause of the outbreak.

And Professor Hugh Pennington, an expert on E.coli has questioned the proportionality of the food watchdog's decision to issue a blanket ban on the sale of all cheeses from Errington.

The emeritus professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, said FSS had come down "very heavily" on Errington Cheese, stating there is a "real possibility" the organisation was "over-interpreting scientific evidence".


He said that the "jury was still out" and while there may be a "moderately strong" case on Dunsyre Blue, there was "no scientific evidence" on any of the firm's other cheeses.

Humphrey Errington, owner of Errington Cheese insisted there is no evidence linking his cheese to the outbreak insisting investigators will not talk to them about the proof for the sales ban.

FSS deny this, saying all all results from samples were shared with Errington and insist decision take to recall Errington Cheese Ltd products are "evidence-based and informed by interpretation from experts including legally designated food examiners".

"They have destroyed us, basically. We are completely finished," said Mr Errington. "It's a nightmare. Unfortunately, nightmares are things you wake up from.


"They are destroying cheese to the value of £300,000, there is no company of our size that can survive that. "Our reputation is completely destroyed and the family will be bankrupt. We have, like most companies borrowings to run the business and we have lost all the cheese which is the collateral against those borrowings.

"We have 13 staff and they are all going to be out of a job. "The lawyers cannot offer us any prospect of any remedy or to restore our ability to make cheese. "This does raise questions of the sort of country we are living in. If it was in Putin's Russia, you'd think it was a believable thing to happen, but I never thought it would be like this in Scotland.

"They have really let down the parents of that poor child who will never know why it happened."

FSS said: "Potentially harmful strains of E.coli and the shiga toxin (stx) genes that can cause illness in humans have been found in a number of different batches of different cheeses produced by Errington Cheese Ltd.


"This means that FSS is not satisfied that the controls and production methods used by the business are producing safe food. Furthermore, the reliance on a limited number of negative test results as evidence that the food is safe provides insufficient assurance, as it is clear that multiple samples across different cheese batches have had positive results.

"Throughout this incident FSS has taken a proportionate approach based on the evidence and it considers that the evidence now justifies a full recall of Errington Cheese Ltd. products to ensure the protection of public health.

"From the point of issue of the [food alert], all local authorities in Scotland will be seeking to ensure all products manufactured by [Errington Cheese] are recalled and held with a view to being destroyed. If consumers have any products from Errington Cheese Ltd. they should dispose of them or take them back to the place of purchase."

NHS Tayside Health Protection Team and Angus Council are currently investigating cases of E.coli O157 infection affecting a small number of children in the Angus area.


IMT said initial information suggests that there may be a link to the national outbreak and investigations are ongoing.

IMT chairman Dr Alison Smith-Palmer said that the IMT has established that 19 of the 22 confirmed cases had eaten blue cheese prior to becoming ill.

Of these, 15 are known to have eaten Dunsyre Blue while others cannot be certain about the brand of blue cheese they have consumed. Investigations are ongoing on the other cases.

“During investigations of this nature, the organism causing the outbreak is not always identified from the implicated food as the food consumed by cases is often not available for testing as illness can occur weeks after the food has been eaten," said Dr Smith-Palmer.

"In addition, not all those who have eaten an implicated product will become ill because the organism is not always evenly distributed throughout the product.

"The IMT has considered all the information available to them, and continue to be of the view that Dunsyre Blue remains the most likely cause of the outbreak."