Supporters of Errington Cheese are being given the chance to back the Carnwath business’s fight to overturn a watchdog’s order it fears could result in its closure.
The company has had to lay off its staff and is warning that it faces complete closure unless it can restart production and resume selling its existing stock.
It has made a legal challenge in the Court of Session to Food Standards Scotland’s ban on the sale of any of its cheese.
Now, food writer Joanna Blythman has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise £50,000 to save the Errington cheeses and defend artisan cheesemakers.
By Tuesday, that appeal had raised almost £11,000 towards the firm’s legal costs.
The Errington family say they are “completely overwhelmed” at the support they are receiving through that campaign, adding that it is giving them the courage to keep going. Those wanting to donate can do so on the Justgiving website at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/joanna-blythman?utm_id=60&utm_term=G285mw8QG
As reported previously, Food Standards Scotland imposed the ban following an outbreak of E coli, but Errington says the food watchdog has failed to show its evidence linking the outbreak to the company’s products.
In September, the food safety watchdog order all local authorities to ensure the company’s cheese was withdrawn from sale and destroyed.
It has now withdrawn that destruction order, but the ban on sale and production of all Errington products remains in place.
Errington has already had to lay its 12-strong workforce off, and £350,000 worth of cheese currently stored at the firm’s premises might have to be destroyed if sales are delayed so long that it becomes overripe.
Founder Humphrey Errington said: “We are acutely conscious that a child has died due to the E coli outbreak over the summer.
“Our products are being linked to this outbreak by Food Standards Scotland, but it has so far failed to provide us with any evidence to support this.
“After lodging our case for a judicial review, Food Standards Scotland has backed down and rescinded its order that the cheese be destroyed, which is tantamount to an admission that it had made a mistake in the first place in ordering destruction.
“We have carried out our own tests using leading laboratories and found no trace of E coli 0157. We are continuing to seek a judicial review in order that Food Standards Scotland’s evidence is made public and open to scrutiny.
“Food Standards Scotland says it could take six months to finalise its report, but by that time, our cheese will have to be destroyed and our business will be finished.”
Mr Errington believes the watchdog has taken a position against the production of unpasteurised milk cheese, saying: “This puts the reputation and future of the whole British artisan cheese industry under threat.
“We have the irony of unpasteurised French cheeses such as Roquefort being imported into Scotland and freely available for sale while a ban exists on our own indigenous cheese.”
In its statement last week suspending the order to destroy the cheese, the food watchdog said that as the withdrawl of products made by Errington Cheese Ltd remained in place, it was “satisfied that there is no current risk to public health.
“As part of ongoing legal proceedings we have asked local authorities in Scotland to suspend in the interim, the part of the ‘Food Alert For Action’ solely in respect of the destruction of the withdrawn products,” it said.