Health Protection Scotland (HPS) has published the E. coli O157 outbreak report on behalf of the Incident Management Team (IMT) which was established to investigate the national outbreak in summer 2016.
The report confirms that a total of 26 cases of the same strain of E. coli O157 were identified in the outbreak between July and mid-September 2016. This comprised of 24 primary cases and two secondary cases. 17 of the cases required admission to hospital and a three year old child died
The report has been produced by the multi-agency Incident Management Team including Health Protection Scotland, Food Standards Scotland, South Lanarkshire Council, Reference Laboratories, Health Protection teams from seven NHS Boards and Environmental Health teams from a further from 11 Local Authorities.
It details epidemiological, microbiological, food and environmental investigations and concludes the source of the outbreak was consumption of unpasteurised cow’s milk cheese, Dunsyre Blue. Of 24 primary cases 15 are known to have consumed Dunsyre Blue cheese within eight days before the onset of their symptoms. The epidemiological evidence is also supported by deficiencies in the procedures for monitoring and control of pathogenic E.coli at the food business. The report concludes that: "Potentially pathogenic E. coli were able to enter and survive the cheese production process at the food business. Positive results were obtained for cheese produced over a period of four months, indicating a systematic potential for Escherichia coli (STEC) to enter the process and contaminate final products."
This shows that the Incident Management Team’s decisions were informed by substantial epidemiological evidence as well as the wide range of sample failures showing potentially pathogenic E.coli and the fact that the food safety management system had to be amended to enable the company to recommence cheese production. Errington Cheese Ltd has disputed that Dunsyre Blue cheese was the cause of the outbreak, but this report now puts all the evidence pointing to this conclusion in the public domain.
The report can be accessed here.