Cheese gifted over festive period 'may be contaminated with E. coli'

Health chiefs warned the products may have been included in Christmas hampers or given as gifts.

Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese possibly related to dozens of E.coli cases recalled by FSA and Waitrose Pixabay

A number of cheeses have been urgently recalled due to fears they could be contaminated by E.coli bacteria after around 30 people fell ill.

The Food Standards Agency issued a notice on Christmas Eve for Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese, warning that four different products may contain the dangerous bacteria. 

On Wednesday, December 27, the FSA updated its warning adding Waitrose’s Farmhouse Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese to the list.

Health chiefs warned that the cheeses may have been included in Christmas hampers or given as gifts over the festive period.

Mrs Kirkham’s Smoked Lancashire, Mature Lancashire, Tasty Lancashire, and Mild and Creamy Lancashire – all use by dates of all batches purchased since October 1 2023 – are among the affected cheeses.

Waitrose has also issued a recall on Waitrose & Partners No 1 Farmhouse Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese (200g) as a “precaution”.

The FSA said the products might be contaminated with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli. Anyone who has bought the cheese should ensure they do not eat it and keep it away from other foods. 

Symptoms of E.coli include diarrhoea, stomach cramps and occasionally fever.

The NHS Inform website states that people usually notice symptoms three to four days after they have been infected, but symptoms can start any time between one and 14 days afterwards and can last up to two weeks.

Anyone with symptoms should not prepare food for others until 48 hours after they stop and should avoid visiting people in hospitals and care homes.

Products can be taken back to the retailer for a full refund, the FSA said.

Tina Potter, head of incidents at the FSA said: “We are aware that this recalled product may be popular over the festive period, especially as it has been sold as part of a Christmas gift hamper and so we are urging consumers to check whether they have bought or been gifted this product.  

“Due to this outbreak of E. coli O145 we are urging all consumers to ensure they follow the advice in the product recall notices, which details all of the products which may pose a risk.

“We are also asking people to share this advice with friends and family who may have either purchased the recalled product or have received it as a gift.”   

Amy Douglas, incident director for gastrointestinal infections and food safety division at UKHSA, said: “There have been at least 30 confirmed cases of this specific outbreak strain of STEC in the UK. 

“Symptoms of STEC include severe diarrhoea (including bloody diarrhoea), stomach cramps, vomiting and fever. If you have diarrhoea and vomiting, you can take steps to avoid passing it on to family and friends over the festive period.  

“Washing your hands with soap and warm water and using bleach-based products to clean surfaces will help stop infections from spreading. Don’t prepare food for others if you have symptoms or for 48 hours after symptoms stop. 

“Many of us will be travelling for Christmas, but if you are unwell you should avoid visiting people in hospitals and care homes to avoid passing on the infection in these settings. Do not return to work or school once term restarts, until 48 hours after your symptoms have stopped.” 

In a statement, Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese Ltd said it was recalling all cheese bought between October 1 and December24 and was “working very closely” with local environmental health officers and the FSA to “fully understand the situation and whether our products have been correctly implicated”.

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