- A legal dispute between Scottish cheesemaker Errington Cheese and South Lanarkshire Council has come to an end, with Errington Cheese winning back the four batches of cheese which were confiscated in 2016 by the local authority
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The cheese was confiscated due to fears that the cheese had led to an outbreak of E.coli in the local area. Although EU regulations state that a comprehensive risk assessment must be undertaken if an unwanted organism is suspected in a food product, Sheriff Weir accepted the argument put forward by South Lanarkshire Council that a draft policy document of Food Standards Scotland could override the EU regulation.
The Court of Session concluded that Sheriff Weir had acted “unreasonably and irrationally at common law, contrary to the approach required as matter of EU law”.
The South Lanarkshire cheesemaker opened its doors last month for Great British Cheese Day, an event which saw hundreds of visitors visit the site, and sales of its chese Corra Linn have surged as distribution across the UK has increased.
The producer’s fight continues against the authority, as it pursues a compensation case for the impact on the business as a result of Sheriff Weir’s actions and its related legal costs.
Humphrey Errington, founder of Errington Cheese said, “This is a significant legal ruling which will have lasting implications for food producers as well as the overall remit of Food Standards Scotland.
“Food Standards Scotland can no longer issue enforcement policy if it goes above and beyond what is required in EU regulations.
“These actions have been extremely detrimental to our business, with sales falling to as low as 25% of pre-2016 levels, forced to lay off staff and funnel almost all our cash reserves, not to mention personal savings, into a costly legal battle.
“We’re delighted the Court of Session has ruled in our favour with the company’s efforts now focused on getting the business back on track by increasing production and sales, while also coming to a settlement with the local authority over our legal fees and compensation for spoiled produce. Once an agreement is reached, we’ll hopefully be in a position to reemploy some of our loyal workforce.”
Professor Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen said, “This ruling aligns with the science of the case, following hundreds of samples of cheese being extensively tested for E.Coli 157. The court had previously ruled that Errington Cheese was produced in an entirely safe manner, and the very small number of E coli strains that were detected were ones that have never been shown to cause harm to humans. This is an extremely rational decision and hopefully it can go some way to help the Errington’s get the business back on track.