The dates 1st to 15th June have now been set for the case against Lanark Blue and Corra Linn to be heard in Lanark Sheriff Court. It is a relief that finally we have the opportunity to show a court that our cheese is safe to eat.
The question is: can raw milk cheese be legally made and sold in Scotland? Scientific studies have shown 30% of raw milk cheese contain genes associated with shiga toxin- producing E.coli (STEC,). However, only a tiny percent have shown all the markers necessary to cause illness. None of our cheeses have contained all the markers. Lanark Blue and Corra Linn are made from sheep’s milk; sheep’s cheese has never caused STEC illness.
Although “seized”, the whole of last year’s production of Corra Linn remains at the farm in an area barricaded off by South Lanarkshire Council (SLC). The Lanark Blue made last year is in a container in Paisley under control of SLC.
The Dunsyre Blue was seized over a month ago and removed to a container. In order to alleviate SLC and Food Standard Scotland (FSS) ’s concerns (which are not shared by us) we had agreed with SLC to sell it as a cooking cheese since it was, in any event, too mature to sell as an eating cheese. We don’t understand why they changed their mind. To date we have not received an application from SLC taking it to the Sheriff despite an obligation on the authorities to do so within 2 days of seizing it.
On 26th April the Judge in the Court of Session granted our petition to be given the data relied upon by FSS and Health Protection Scotland (HPS) in concluding that Dunsyre Blue caused the E.coli illness last summer. Some of that information will be redacted before we see it but we hope it will clarify why the Incident Management Team came to their conclusions.
We firmly believe that Dunsyre Blue did not cause the outbreak last year. We have asked food safety, epidemiological, and microbiological experts to study the report and they are all highly critical of the manner of the investigation, the bias, the lack of logic and the many errors.
Those within FSS who have made the allegations in the outbreak report and repeatedly criticized us in the media have never met us or visited our business, despite our invitations.
I simply do not understand the aggressive attitude towards my family and small business from FSS. We are, and have been, regularly audited by SLC and no areas of concern have been highlighted over the past few years. SLC themselves were audited by the FSA in November 2014 and it was reported to me from by my environmental health officer (EHO) that they were ‘very impressed’ by our business. We are audited externally by SALSA + SCA, and take regular advice from independent consultants.
Despite all the care we take to produce a highly quality product we have had to lay off all our staff. We are working flat out to farm and produce and sell cheese and we are having to cope with almost daily visits from the council’s EHO’s. Obviously this degree of harassment cannot continue if our business is to survive. We hope that the Sheriff Court hearing will be a first step towards rescuing our name and reputation from damaging allegations based on prejudice and bad science.