A dairy farming family who found themselves at the centre of an E.coli outbreak are now looking to the future following what they described as ’the worst couple of years of our lives’.
Errington Cheese, based in South Lanarkshire, suffered a huge blow in 2016 when its Dunsyre Blue cheese was named as the most likely source of an outbreak of E.coli which killed a three-year-old girl.
While the firm disputes its product was the cause, director Selina Cairns said they were still facing challenges from Environmental Health and Food Standards Scotland.
“There are only a few raw milk cheesemakers. I think they would rather we were not here," she told Farmers Guardian.
The firm has successfully defended a legal dispute with South Lanarkshire Council, which wanted to dispose of its entire stock of cheese.
It was now relaunching its Dunsyre Blue, opening its doors to the public in a bid to rebuild and offer tastings and demonstrations.
“We like to show off our Lacaune sheep, they are quite different looking," added Mrs Cairnes. They are probably the only ones in Scotland."
She said the business had faced a turbulent two years, with sales falling to 25 per cent of 2016 levels and it was recently forced to lay off its two remaining employees.
“We have got a small farm, it is about 250 acres," added Mrs Cairns. We are milking about 400 sheep, it all goes into the production of cheese so, as well as affecting the cheese business, it affected the farm.”
Errington also buys in cows milk locally for its cheese.
The firm was now looking to recoup legal fees of about £350,000 from the council and was in the process of agreeing compensation with the local authority for £260,000 worth of cheese seized which was no longer marketable.
The firm hopes to use this money to reemploy its workforce.
Mrs Cairns added the community had been extremely supportive and it was now looking to get chefs and wholesalers back on board and rebuild its cheese stocks.