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Raw milk cheese under threat in Scotland

Slideshow Image

A family fighting back.

The Errington family have a 300-acre farm near Carnwarth in Lanarkshire on which cheese has been made since the mid-1980s.

Humphrey Errington was a pioneer cheese maker in Scotland, making a raw sheep’s milk cheese called Lanark Blue, the first new blue cheese in Scotland in decades.

Today, the farm is run and cheese-making done by Humphrey Errington’s daughter Selina, together with her husband.

They make a range of sheep (Lanark Blue, Lanark White, Cora Linn), cow (Dunsyre Blue) and goat (Lanark Blue) milk cheeses. Renowned for quality, they’ve found a place on the cheese boards of many top restaurants.

Unfortunately, right now there is no cheese being made, the premises are shut and the 8 or so staff made redundant.

Last summer, an outbreak of ecoli 0157 led to 20 confirmed cases of infection, 11 of whom had received hospital treatment, and the sad death of a small child.

The FSS (Food Standards Scotland) authority did an investigation and blamed the Errington’s Dunsyre Blue cheese.

The Erringtons did their own tests and could not find any evidence that their cheese was responsible.

In September 2016, the FSS demanded that all the Errington’s cheeses be recalled, not just Dunsyre Blue.

They appealed in court, but still had to lay off all their staff, highly-skilled cheesemakers in an area with not many skilled jobs. They did manage to prevent their cheese from being destroyed.

A Scottish food writer and campaigner Joanna Blythman  started a crowdfunding campaign to help the Errington pay their legal costs, which has been promoted by Slow Food in the UK as was one of our Christmas appeals.

Like many in Scotland, not only did she believe that the FSS action was a huge injustice targeting a small, artisan producer with an excellent reputation, it threatened the whole landscape of small producers so important to our biodiversity, food culture and countryside resilience.

The fund has had a steady stream of donations from those concerned with the issue has taken the total to close to £35 000.

A committee for the defence of artisan foods has also been formed, with representatives from journalism, academia, restaurants, Slow Food Edinburgh, small producers, cheese experts (including the co-ordinator of the Ark of Taste in Scotland) and others.

On 2 February 2017, a packed public meeting was organised by the committee. Here, Humphrey Errington told the full story, a microbiologist from the French lab where the cheese was found to be clear explained the technical and scientific background, amongst others. There was a clear feeling in the room that this had been a clear injustice with no good scientific evidence of ecoli 0157, and no way for the Erringtons to see the evidence against them.

The morning after the meeting, all the Erringtons’ Lanark Blue and Cora Linn cheese was ‘detained’ and removed from the farm to be put into storage. This was in response to the Erringtons saying they would put these cheeses on sale since they were safe to eat.

A court date to resolve the issue has been set. The Erringtons welcome this chance to put their side of the story and show the evidence they have gathered from independent testing.

8 Responses Subscribe to comments

  1. Senga Smykala

    Utterly ridiulous. Lanark Blue cheese is delicious! I have been eating it for years. the FSS seems to have taken a completely illogical dislike to this company and their products. Hope Erringtons win this ridiculous arguement!

    Mar 10, 2017 @ 1:26 pm

  2. John Savage-Onstwedder

    The European Court of Human Rights states somewhere that it is unlawful to seize people’s property (i.e. in this case cheese) if there is no evidence that this property is a threat to public health.
    If the Errington’s tests do not show up any E-coli 0157 then surely their property should not be confiscated without proper compensation?
    Raw milk cheese is a world heritage product and is threatened by overzealous health officers. We must fight them if we are not to lose our freedom of choice to ask for and eat raw milk cheeses and drink raw milk.
    And remember, there is not one species of mammal on earth that feeds its young pasteurized milk. It’s unnatural. We all know “breast is best”.

    Mar 10, 2017 @ 3:48 pm

  3. patricia michelson

    The Specialist Cheesemakers Association have put their considerable expertise behind the Erringtons and are working with the Scottish EHO to make clearer and more defined working relations. This is an important move and one the SCA have been keen to promote to all EHO’s throughout the UK. Each EHO works to their own interpretation of the rules and regulations and now is the time to bring it all into focus and get a standard way of working which is also in touch with professionals from the SCA who are also attached to Government committees too. The Erringtons do not deserve this and the more people who donate to the fund the better to bring the ground swell of support for them to the surface and get their production started again.

    Mar 10, 2017 @ 4:11 pm

  4. Kathy Robinson

    This is a cause worth donating to!! The FSS is doing huge harm with their ridiculous bullying! How can I donate?

    Mar 10, 2017 @ 8:36 pm

  5. CommunicationsSFUK

    Kathy, The funding has just closed, we will update you to let you know when/if it reopens

    Mar 11, 2017 @ 9:28 pm

  6. Dr Neil Milliken

    As a medical GP (and naturopathic nutritionist) there are other agendas for demonizing small-scale unpasteurized cheese producers, where larger mass-made producers have unfortunately bigger financial clout when it comes to defending their own tribal territorialism of low quality fare,investing in their industry to preserve the propagation of profitable,but artificially-produced potentially detrimental food-like substances, which Nature never intended humans to eat( e.g.calves only fed pasteurized dairy..soon die). The FSA use dietitians,who know,(from my experience) actually very little or nothing about true healing capabilities of naturally produced food or about the dangers of processed foods(margarine, aspartame, processed omega-6 vegetable oils..linked to heart attacks,auto-immune disease/cancer)& so FSA may well be still guided by financially lobbied vested interests and erroneous beliefs. Hypocritical…

    Mar 11, 2017 @ 2:54 pm

  7. Julia Wight

    Though raising funds for the Errington’s cause has been halted for now, I would be interested in contributing should it re-open.

    Mar 12, 2017 @ 9:23 am

  8. Chantal Coady OBE

    The crowd funding is still working as far as I can see – – this is really such a tragic story, thanks to Joanna Blythman and Slow Food UK for championing the cause, and my heart goes out to all at Errington. Bon courage for all our fantastic artisan cheese makers, and other food producers. As Patricia Michelson says so eloquently every EHO has their own standards. We live in a crazy world!

    Mar 13, 2017 @ 7:27 pm



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