One Brit dead in E-coli outbreak linked to artisan cheese sold at Waitrose and in Christmas hampers – with at least 30 people including children as young as seven ill

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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One person has died and 11 taken to hospital amid an E.coli outbreak linked to artisan cheese sold in Waitrose and contained in Christmas hampers. 

The victims are among 30 cases reported across the country, some involving children as young as seven – according to UK health and food watchdogs. 

Officials suspect a dairy farm near Preston, Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese, to be the source of the outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E.coli (STEC), a rare strain of the diarrhoea-causing bug. 

Four of Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese products have been recalled as a precaution. They are mild and creamy Lancashire, tasty Lancashire, mature Lancashire, and smoked Lancashire.

And all sizes of No 1 Waitrose and Partners, Farmhouse Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese with use by dates from Oct. 30, 2023, to Jan. 16, 2024, have also been withdrawn from sale.

Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese is located in the picturesque village of Goosnargh. It was established in 1978 by Ruth and John Kirkham before they handed it over to their son, Graham. It is the last cheesemaker in Lancashire that uses raw milk. 

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said some people may have been given the cheeses unknowingly in festive hampers and charcuterie boards. The affected products can be sold as full blocks or individual portions.

Safety chiefs have since urged the public not to eat four varieties of Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese, which is made using raw cow’s milk

Symptoms of Shiga Toxin producing E.coli include severe diarrhoea and vomiting, according to the UK Health Security Agency

Symptoms of Shiga Toxin producing E.coli include severe diarrhoea and vomiting, according to the UK Health Security Agency 

John and Ruth Kirkham set up the dairy farm in 1978. There is no suggestion that any of the cheese pictured in the image are affected

John and Ruth Kirkham set up the dairy farm in 1978. There is no suggestion that any of the cheese pictured in the image are affected

Their son Graham Kirkham posing for a photo in a field of cows

Their son Graham Kirkham posing for a photo in a field of cows

Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese is made with raw milk, meaning it doesn’t go through the heating pasteurisation process that kills potentially harmful bugs.

MailOnline understands the death was reported in Scotland. The victim’s age was not revealed. 

A seven-year-old child is among , according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). The oldest was 81.

All tested positive for a specific type of E.coli called 0145, with tests suggesting the strain was more severe than standard ones.

Revealed: The cheese being recalled

Waitrose & Partners No 1 Farmhouse Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese, 200g, is being recalled for the following use by dates:

30/10/2023, 02/11/2023, 07/11/2023, 10/11/2023, 20/11/2023, 28/11/2023, 04/12/2023, 11/12/2023, 13/12/2023, 20/12/2023, 23/12/2023, 02/01/2023,

Products purchased between purchased from October 1 and December 24 are also being recalled for the following:  

  • 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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Health chiefs are still probing the outbreak to determine whether any other sources could be to blame. 

STEC 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.

Symptoms include vomiting, fever, stomach cramps and diarrhoea, the UKHSA says. 

But in up to 15 per cent of cases, the bug can cause haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a life-threatening condition that can lead to kidney failure.

Children under the age of five are most commonly affected by HUS.

However, it can also affect other vulnerable groups, including the elderly and immunocompromised. 

UKHSA chiefs said people should take extra care to both avoid infection and potentially 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.’ 

Mrs Kirkham’s originally recalled four types of cheese: Mild and Creamy Lancashire, Tasty Lancashire, Mature Lancashire and Smoked Lancashire. 

The manufacturer, which is based in the village of Goosnargh and claims to be the last remaining raw milk Lancashire cheesemaker in the world, has since recalled all of its products as a precaution. 

Yesterday, Waitrose also recalled its No.1 Farmhouse Kirkham’s Lancashire product, which is made by the same family-run business.

Mrs Kirkham's Lancashire cheese is located in the picturesque rural village of Goosnargh

Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese is located in the picturesque rural village of Goosnargh

The FSA first issued a ‘precautionary’ recall alert of the four Mrs Kirkham products on Christmas Eve. 

At the time, the agency cautioned that further recalls of other products might be issued as investigations continue. 

The type of E.coli linked to this outbreak is different to the one which hospitalised a teenage girl who fell seriously ill over the festive season.

Antonia Hay, 17, is believed to have tested positive for a separate strain, numbered O157.

Waitrose & Partners No 1 Farmhouse Kirkham's Lancashire Cheese sold in 200g packs is being recalled over fears it could case food poisoning following the E. coli outbreak. This comes after four varieties of Mrs Kirkham¿s Lancashire cheese were urgently recalled and slapped with a 'do not eat' alert over contamination fears

Waitrose & Partners No 1 Farmhouse Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese sold in 200g packs is being recalled over fears it could case food poisoning following the E. coli outbreak. This comes after four varieties of Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese were urgently recalled and slapped with a ‘do not eat’ alert over contamination fears

The aspiring actress spent almost two weeks in intensive care, only coming home temporarily on Christmas Day.

She has had multiple operations, including to remove part of her bowel, and a blood transfusion as kidney failure meant she required dialysis.

Antonia’s father, Steve Hay, believes it was caught from food bought from a local market in Great Missenden, Bucks, around November 25.

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,’ it added. 

Tina Potter, head of incidents and the FSA, 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 given this product.’

Antonia Hay, 17, is believed to have tested positive for a separate strain, numbered O157

Antonia Hay, 17, is believed to have tested positive for a separate strain, numbered O157 

The UKHSA, FSA, Public Health Scotland (PHS) and Food Standards Scotland are working together with other partner agencies to investigate the outbreak.

A PHS spokesperson said: ‘PHS can confirm there has been one death associated with E.coli O145 in Scotland.

‘We are continuing to monitor the situation in Scotland and are working with UKHSA, who are investigating at a UK-wide level.’

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