Investigators link Angus cases to national E.coli outbreak

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An ongoing investigation into a national outbreak of E.coli associated with Dunsyre Blue cheese has suggested that the two Angus cases could be linked to it.

The multi-agency Incident Management Team (IMT) established to investigate a national outbreak of E.coli O157 associated with Dunsyre Blue cheese has been reconvened today as two further confirmed cases with the same outbreak strain have been identified. These further cases brings the total to 22 confirmed cases linked to the outbreak.

Chair of the IMT, Dr Alison Smith-Palmer said: “Our epidemiological investigations have identified Dunsyre Blue cheese as the most likely cause of the outbreak. To date, 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. 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.

“As part of the investigations carried out by South Lanarkshire Council and Food Standards Scotland on behalf of the IMT, a large number of cheese samples have been taken as well as other investigations conducted. These have identified a number of different cheeses produced by Errington Cheese Ltd containing organisms with the potential to cause serious illness including O157 E.coli and toxin producing non-O157 E.coli. Based on these findings, Food Standards Scotland has issued a food safety alert to withdraw all cheeses produced by the company. Food Standards Scotland is advising all consumers who have purchased any cheeses produced by Errington Cheese Ltd not to consume them, and to return the products to where they purchased them.

“In view of these developments, the IMT has been reconvened and will be meeting on a regular basis to review and consider all information as it becomes available to protect public health.”

NHS Tayside Health Protection Team and Angus Council are currently investigating cases of E.coli O157 infection affecting a small number of children in Angus, believed to be in the Carnoustie area. The IMT are in contact with those managing this investigation and initial information suggests that there may be a link to the national outbreak and investigations are ongoing.

The multi-agency IMT includes representatives of Food Standards Scotland, NHS boards and local authority environmental health teams and is chaired by Health Protection Scotland.

The IMT will not be making any further statement at the moment.