On Friday 8th May, a Food Hazard Warning was issued by the Department of Health to Chief Environmental Health Officers of local authorities. It stated that a 12 year-old Somerset boy had been treated in a Bristol hospital for an illness caused by E. coli 0157 bacteria. His case has been linked with consumption of Wedmore, a Caerphilly-type cheese containing chives, from Duckett & Co., a small producer with limited national distribution.
The warning also asked local authorities to ensure that all stocks/supplies of cheese from Duckett & Co. of Walnut Tree Farm, Wedmore, Somerset, were withheld from distribution and sale. The Department advised people to avoid eating Wedmore, or Ducketts Caerphilly cheese, or Smoked Ducketts Caerphilly cheese. The warning stated that all cheeses originating from Duckett & Co. should be treated as suspect until investigations had been completed. This included cheeses with labels not associated with Duckett & Co. One example is 'Tornegus' a Caerphilly-type cheese in wine.
Local investigations. No further cases have so far been reported, but a further sample of cheese has been found to be positive when tested for E.coli. There are now ten positive samples, out of a total of 162 samples examined to date. The indications are that contamination is not restricted to a single batch of cheese, or to closely adjacent batches. Because these further tests indicate that none of this cheese can be regarded as safe, and because of the severe threat to human health which E. coli represents, a statutory order has been made to reinforce the action already taken to remove the product from the market.
This is the first time that a Health Minister has issued such an order, under Section 13 of the 1990 Food Safety Act. that Section of the Act gives Ministers power to make Emergency Control Orders prohibiting commercial operation in relation to food. Where there is an imminent risk of such food causing injury to health.