One dead after E coli outbreak with suspected link to artisan cheese

One person in Scotland has died from the infection, officials say

Joe Middleton
Friday 29 December 2023 15:49 GMT
E. coli infections can be serious. Here's what to watch out for

A person has died following an outbreak of E coli in the UK which could be linked to artisan cheeses, health officials said.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said 30 confirmed cases of E coli have been recorded across England and Scotland in patients aged seven to 81. The agency said a person from Scotland had now died from the infection.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) announced the recall on Christmas Eve for Mrs Kirkham’s Mild and Creamy Lancashire, Mrs Kirkham’s Tasty Lancashire, Mrs Kirkham’s Mature Lancashire and Mrs Kirkham’s Smoked Lancashire.

It added a fifth product, No 1 Waitrose and Partners, Farmhouse Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese, to the recall list on 27 December.

It said the cheese could have been “contaminated with a specific type of E coli bacteria called Shiga toxin-producing E coli, also known as Stec or Vtec, a pathogen that can cause food poisoning”.

A UKHSA spokesperson said: “One death has been associated with this outbreak. Epidemiological and food chain investigations have identified links between some of the identified cases and a number of unpasteurised cheeses produced by a business in England.”

The recall applies to all size packs of the four cheeses bought since 1 October 2023. The UKHSA said investigations were continuing into common links between cases, including links to the recalled cheeses.

Tina Potter, head of incidents at the FSA, 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 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.”

When it comes to storing Christmas food, GP Dr Babak Ashrafi from Asda Online Doctor said people should use their common sense.

He said: “It is generally safe to keep food for a couple of days after Christmas, as long as it is refrigerated and stored properly. But use your best judgement before eating any leftovers, and be sure to throw away any food that doesn’t look or smell safe to eat.

“Leaving meat at room temperature, or not refrigerating it at low enough temperatures, can encourage bacteria to grow and lead to foodborne illnesses.

“Certain bacteria, such as salmonella and E coli, thrive on meat and can make you very sick. Food contaminated with these bacteria can lead to vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and, in very serious cases, require medical treatment.”

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