Dunsyre Blue Cheese produced by Errington Cheese of Lanarkshire was yesterday blamed for the outbreak by the incident management team comprising health and food safety experts from the NHS, Food Standards Scotland, and local councils.
A report issued by Health Protection Scotland (HPS) it was stated: “This incident management team (IMT) report presents the investigations and conclusions in relation to an outbreak of E. coli O157 PT21/28 in the summer of 2016. A total of 26 cases were identified in this outbreak, which occurred in two phases, firstly in July and then again in September.
“The multi-agency IMT met 11 times between July 22 and September 5 to investigate and manage an outbreak of 20 laboratory confirmed cases of E. coli O157 PT21/28 infection with the same unique molecular profile, with onset dates between July 2 and July 29. The IMT concluded that the source of the outbreak was consumption of an unpasteurized cows’ milk cheese, Dunsyre Blue, and a voluntary recall of the suspected batches was undertaken by the food business on July 29.”
The IMT report added: “Extensive investigations concluded that the source of the outbreak was the consumption of Dunsyre Blue. This conclusion was based on evidence from epidemiological and food chain investigations and supported by microbiological evidence.” However, the report also states: “The fact that not all primary cases could be directly linked to Dunsyre Blue was not unexpected and similar to other food related outbreaks.”
The report added: “Not all those infected will have developed symptoms or developed symptoms severe enough to seek medical attention and subsequent laboratory identification. It follows that the 26 cases identified during the outbreak investigation is likely to be an underestimate of the true number of cases.”
The report stated: “While testing of cheese did not isolate the outbreak strain, STEC (shiga toxin-producing e-coli) organisms and stx negative E. coli O157 were detected in cheese produced by ECL, demonstrating that pathogens could enter and survive the cheese production process.”
Geoff Ogle, Food Standards Scotland chief executive, said: “Food Standards Scotland is satisfied that the evidence and conclusions presented in this report fully support and justify the decisions that we took to protect consumers.”