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Response to the IMT outbreak report

29 March 2017

We received a copy of the outbreak report late yesterday afternoon. On an initial reading, all of our concerns regarding the investigation into our cheese and the outbreak of illness remain.

We believe that more detailed investigations into the cause of the outbreak are needed. This is particularly in relation to those cases where HPS were unable to find any direct link to Dunsyre Blue.

HPS have now had their chance to present their opinion on what they believe happened. That being so we sincerely hope that they will desist from attempting to frustrate our attempts to uncover the facts, particularly in relation to those cases which don’t fit with their hypothesis. We call on them once again, as we did in August 2016, to let us have access to the evidence relating to their investigations.

The report is long and in parts complex. We will be giving it due consideration with our advisers and experts. We do have some preliminary observations. There is no microbiological evidence that Dunsyre Blue caused the outbreak – all they have concluded is that raw milk cheese carries a small risk of STEC which is already well recorded in scientific literature; there has been no highly pathogenic STEC found in any of our products, nor anything found linking our cheese to the outbreak. This is fact.

The circumstantial epidemiological evidence is covered in detail based on various models. The crucial factor is missing: what data was put in and how was it derived? We have been denied this information repeatedly, both under freedom of information requests and through legal channels. We will continue to seek access to the epidemiological evidence as it is crucial.

The report confirms our fears that blue cheese was the only food stuff considered from an early stage in the investigation. Salad was also mentioned but there is no evidence given of any investigation of salads.

We appreciate that FSS has a difficult role to play and must give priority to protecting the public and we accept that recalling the two initial batches was appropriate under the precautionary principle.  However, we believe that once samples of these two batches of Dunsyre Blue tested negative for Ecoli 0157, the Incident Management Team should have looked at other food stuffs and potential sources of transmission.

It is not appropriate for us to comment on the many allegations made regarding our company’s processes and controls because these matters will be the subject of inquiry by the Sheriff in Lanark in the near future.

We remain committed to producing raw milk cheese following best practice, based on scientific evidence and following regulatory guidance, as we have done for over thirty years.