A Lanark artisan cheesemaker has been cleared by a court of causing the death of a three-year-old from an outbreak of E-coli food poisoning.
Errington Cheese had been embroiled in a long-running legal battle with both South Lanarkshire Council and Food Standards Scotland over an accusation of failing to comply with food hygiene rules.
Sheriff Robert Weir QC who was hearing the civil case remarked that the allegations were “not well founded”.
The Sheriff also rejected the council’s application for a destruction order covering the company’s entire stock of cheese. He did rule that four batches of cheeses made with raw milk - one Lanark Blue and three Corra Linn could be destroyed.
Sheriff weir also told the council that there was “no justification” for a destruction order for all 83 batches of Lanark Blue.
He remarked: “I am satisfied that Lanark Blue...was ‘produced, processed or distributed’ in compliance with the hygiene regulations.”
The Crown Office and PF Service made a decision last year that the company would not face any criminal proceedings over the childs death in the 2016 E.coli outbreak.
Humphrey Errington, said: “The reason for pursuing this through the courts was the accusation that a years worth of cheese was unsafe and complete shut down of our business and livelihood rather than allowing me the option of disposing of these four batches and selling the 80 batches of Lanark Blue and 70 batches of Corra Linn following testing.
“I do believe South Lanarkshire Council would have been willing to discuss this rationally, however unfortunately it was clear to me their hands were tied by Food Standards Scotland who did not wish to discuss the possibility.
“As Food Standards Scotland are the ‘Competent Authority’ South Lanarkshire Council were obliged to follow their direction.”
The case is believed to have cost the council in excess of £500,000 in legal costs. A sum Errington Cheese says could have been avoided.
Ross Finnie, chairman of Food Standards Scotland said: “Food Standards Scotland is content that the Sheriff’s judgment in this case concluded that some of the cheeses produced by Errington Cheese Ltd were unfit for human consumption.
“However, we are disappointed this did not include all of the cheese involved in these proceedings.
Michael McGlynn, South Lanarkshire Council’s executive director of community and enterprise resources, said: “The council acknowledges the sheriff’s decision to confirm the destruction of some of the cheese that action was taken against, whilst noting the sheriff’s decision on the remaining batches.
“We are considering the implications of the decision.”
Humphrey Errington concluded: “We would like to express our profound gratitude to all our experts and those who have so generously supported us.
“I really hope that no other small business will have to go though such a harrowing and stressful process.”