30 Brits are sickened in E. coli outbreak linked to artisan cheese: Health chiefs issue urgent recall and slap ‘do not eat’ notice on four types popular in Christmas hampers

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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Thirty Brits have been sickened in an E. coli outbreak linked to artisan cheese. 

Four varieties of Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese have been urgently recalled and slapped with a ‘do not eat’ alert over contamination fears.

Food safety chiefs warn the affected cheeses may have been gifted unknowingly in hampers.   

Most E. coli strains are harmless, although the type feared to be lurking within Mrs Kirkham’s cheeses can cause diarrhoea, vomiting, fever and stomach cramps.

In extremely serious cases, shiga toxin-producing E. coli (as it is known) can lead to kidney failure.

Four varieties of Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese have been urgently recalled and slapped with a ‘do not eat’ alert over contamination fears. Pictured: A generic shot taken from the Lancashire-based cheesemaker’s website

The joint Food Standards Agency (FSA) and UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) alert only applies to Mrs Kirkham’s Mild and Creamy Lancashire, Tasty Lancashire, Mature Lancashire and Smoked Lancashire varieties.

However, the raw milk cheesemaker, based in a village just outside of Preston, said it has since ‘taken the difficult decision to recall all of our products’ purchased from October 1 and December 24.

Tina Potter, head of incidents and the Food Standards Agency, said: ‘We are aware this recalled product may be popular over the festive period, especially as it has been sold as part of a Christmas gift hamper.

‘So we are urging consumers to check whether they have bought or been gifted this product.’

UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) bosses revealed 30 confirmed cases have been recorded in this outbreak. 

Revealed: The FOUR cheese being recalled

  • Mrs Kirkham’s Mild & Creamy Lancashire
  • Mrs Kirkham’s Tasty Lancashire
  • Mrs Kirkham’s Mature Lancashire
  • Mrs Kirkham’s Smoked Lancashire

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All tested positive for a specific strain called 0145, feared to be lurking in the cheese.

STEC, or shiga toxin-producing E. coli, is spread by eating contaminated foods, such as raw leafy vegetables or undercooked meat.

The very infectious bacteria can also be spread by touching infected animals or their faeces and coming into contact with other people who are sick.

UKHSA chiefs said people should take extra care to both avoid infection, and if hit by the bug, passing it on to others.

Amy Douglas, UKHSA’s incident director for gastrointestinal infections and food safety, said: ‘There have been at least 30 confirmed cases of this specific outbreak strain of STEC in the UK.

‘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.’ 

Symptoms vary from mild to bloody diarrhoea, the UK Health Security Agency says. Vomiting, fever and stomach cramps are other tell-tale signs. But, in severe cases, the bug can cause haemolytic uremic syndrome, a life-threatening condition that can lead to kidney failure

Symptoms vary from mild to bloody diarrhoea, the UK Health Security Agency says. Vomiting, fever and stomach cramps are other tell-tale signs. But, in severe cases, the bug can cause haemolytic uremic syndrome, a life-threatening condition that can lead to kidney failure

 She added: ‘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.’

It comes after the FSA first issued a ‘precautionary’ recall alert of the products on Christmas Eve. 

The FSA also said further recalls of other products might be issued as investigations continue.  

Mrs Kirkham’s said: ‘We are working very closely with our local Environmental Health Officers and the FSA to fully understand the situation, and whether our products have been correctly implicated.

‘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.’

The statement also said that due to many laboratories currently being closed over the festive period the business had been left in ‘limbo’.

‘We will be suspending all orders until investigations are completed and we have some answers.’ 

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