'This will change the industry': Cheesemaker speaks out as one dies and 30 ill after E. Coli outbreak linked to cheese

29 December 2023, 22:02 | Updated: 29 December 2023, 22:11

Graham Kirkham
Graham Kirkham. Picture: Instagram

By Kit Heren

The owner of a family cheesemaking business has said that the outbreak of E. Coli in the UK that has already seen one person die will change the industry.

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The Food Standards Agency (FSA) announced a precautionary recall of four products from Mrs Kirkham's Lancashire Cheese on Christmas Eve because of possible E. Coli contamination.

The FSA has warned the public not to eat four cheeses:

  • Mrs Kirkham's Mild & Creamy Lancashire
  • Mrs Kirkham's Tasty Lancashire
  • Mrs Kirkham's Mature Lancashire
  • Mrs Kirkham's Smoked Lancashire

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said investigations were continuing into any common links between cases, including links to the recalled cheeses.

The UKHSA said 30 confirmed cases of Shiga toxin-producing E. Coli, (Stec) have been recorded across England and Scotland in patients aged seven to 81.

A person from Scotland has now died following infection, the agency added.

Graham Kirkham, who runs Mrs Kirkham's Lancashire Cheese, said that "no one really knew about" the Shiga toxin-producing E. Coli (Stec) strain.

Mr Kirkham told MailOnline: "This is going to change the dairy industry,' adding that eight of the people affected "have eaten our cheese".

He said that the E.Coli outbreak is a "new strain" that "no one really knew about".

Mr Kirkham said: "We seem to have taken the brunt of it. We feel we have been hung out to dry a bit.

"We are devastated but we don't think we are linked to any kids being ill.

"We are part of a bigger investigation and we need to know we are clear and we have stopped any more cheeses going out.

"We have the first set of results back and we are negative so that's good."

He added: "But now we need to do further testing on the farm. However it is all slowed down because of the time of year".

Read more: Girl, 17, fighting for life after catching E. Coli 'from Christmas market food stall'

Read more: Four types of cheese that could be in Christmas hampers recalled due to E. Coli fears

Amy Douglas, Incident Director for Gastrointestinal Infections and Food Safety Division at UKHSA, said: "There have been at least 30 confirmed cases of this specific outbreak strain of STEC in the UK.

"Symptoms of STEC include severe diarrhoea (including bloody diarrhoea), stomach cramps, vomiting and fever. If you have diarrhoea and vomiting, you can take steps to avoid passing it on to family and friends over the festive period.  

"Washing your hands with soap and warm water and using bleach-based products to clean surfaces will help stop infections from spreading. Don’t prepare food for others if you have symptoms or for 48 hours after symptoms stop.

"Many of us will be travelling for Christmas, but if you are unwell you should avoid visiting people in hospitals and care homes to avoid passing on the infection in these settings.

"Do not return to work or school once term restarts, until 48 hours after your symptoms have stopped."

Tina Potter, Head of Incidents and the Food Standards Agency 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 unpasteurised cheese product.

"Due to this outbreak of E. Coli O145 we are urging all consumers to ensure they follow the advice in the product recall notices, which details all of the products which may pose a risk.

"We are also asking people to share this advice with friends and family who may have either purchased the recalled product or have received it as a gift."

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