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At least 30 people fall ill amid possible presence of E.coli in Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese

Posted on - 28th December, 2023 - 3:41pm | Author - | Posted in - Business, Health, Preston News
Mrs Kirkham's is based in Mill Lane, Gooosnargh, near Preston Pic: Mrs Kirkham's Lancashire Cheese Ltd
Mrs Kirkham’s is based in Mill Lane, Gooosnargh, near Preston Pic: Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese Ltd

There are at least 30 confirmed cases of E.coli linked with the potential presence of the toxin-producing bacteria in a cheese produced in Preston, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has confirmed.

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Four products of Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese were recalled late on Christmas Eve (December 24) with the company later moving to reassure customers regarding their safety standards and that the measures taken were considered ‘precautionary’.

According to the Food Standards Agency, Shiga toxin-producing E.Coli (STEC) can lead to symptoms including severe diarrhoea (including bloody diarrhoea), abdominal pain, and sometimes haemolytic uremic syndrome, (HUS), a serious condition that can lead to kidney failure and can be fatal.

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Now, the UKHSA has confirmed there at least 30 confirmed cases of this specific outbreak of STEC in the UK. The Food Standards Agency has urged customers to check if they have received the product, which may have been given as a gift or be part of a hamper.

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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 at 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 product.  

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“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.”   

In their most recent statement, a spokesperson for Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese said: “Whilst at this time, there has been no testing carried out on our products by the FSA to confirm any suspected risks, we feel it is our duty to recall our products.

“We are working very closely with our local Environmental Health Officers and the Food Standards Agency to fully understand the situation, and whether our products have been correctly implicated.

“Our modern and purpose-built facility here at Mrs Kirkham’s, is accredited to the Safe And Local Supplier Approval + cheese (SALSA) standard, and as a member of The Specialist Cheesemakers Association we are careful to always adhere to their code of best practice within our business.

“This recall relates to new testing techniques designed to better identify potentially dangerous strains of Shiga Toxin producing E.coli. Unfortunately, these new testing techniques are not currently industry standard. As a result, despite rigorous and thorough testing throughout our production processes, the potential risk to product safety was not previously identified.”

Food Standards Agency advice

If in doubt, consumers are advised to contact the retailer they bought their cheese from to find out if it is from the businesses and batches affected. In the meantime, do not eat the cheese and ensure it is stored safely, fully wrapped and not in contact with other foods. 

If you have purchased any recalled products, it is important that you: 

  • Do not eat the product 
  • Thoroughly clean any surfaces, utensils and equipment the cheese may have touched to prevent cross-contamination of other foods and drink  
  • Make sure that fridges are kept at the right temperature – five degrees Celsius (5°C) or below – as this will limit the growth of any harmful bacteria. Given the fullness of fridges at this time of year it is particularly important to check this. 

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