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December 20, 2018

Regular readers, and anyone with an interest in Scotland's artisanal food producers, will know about the now settled legal dispute between Errington Cheese and South Lanarkshire Council.

We wrote extensively about it a few times over the last couple of years so we won't dive back into the nuts and bolts of it all.

Suffice to say that in 2016 Errington had a large stock of their cheese seized after a well-publicised claim that it was linked to an outbreak of E.coli 0157.

This claim was strongly refuted by the company based on advice from experts in the fields of microbiology and epidemiology.

The resulting legal struggle was hugely damaging for the family-run company and the costs involved fighting the claim nearly sunk the firm.

Won a judicial review

In October of this year, the company was cleared of breaching food hygiene regulations and won a judicial review stating that all batches of cheese were safely produced and safe to eat.

Earlier this month, the small producer received a payment of £254,000 from the council in compensation for cheese which was seized in 2016.

Now, the family have been able to reemploy head cheesemaker Angela Cairns, who is part of the family which owns and runs the business. Angela joined Errington Cheese in 2010 after returning to her native Scotland after spending several years living in New Zealand.

Paul McAllister joined Errington in 2013 and has returned to work alongside Angela as a cheesemaker, as the business looks to the future and concentrates on increasing its stock.

The appointments come after the cheese producer won three awards at the prestigious World Cheese Award last month. Errington’s Corra Linn was awarded two gold medals, while the first batch of its new Dunsyre Blue, made with raw organic milk, was given a silver award.

Slow Food Awards Person of the Year

Errington Cheese have reappointed two staff members.

Errington Cheese have reappointed two staff members.

Selina Cairns, director at Errington Cheese, was also named Person of the Year at the Slow Food Awards, while the company’s Lanark Blue Cheese was awarded Champion Slow Food Product.

Angela Cairns commented: 'I’m very happy to be back at Errington, working with my family to do what I love. It has been a long road over the last two years, but we remain determined and focused on rebuilding the business and continuing to produce award-winning cheese.'

Selina Cairns, director at Errington Cheese said: 'We have always been focused on doing what we do best, sustainably producing delicious, hand-made artisan cheese. Although the payment we have received from South Lanarkshire does not cover the decline in our sales, or the legal fees we have incurred in order to be cleared of any wrongdoing, it is a testament to our determination to clear the business’s name and represents an acknowledgement that the council’s confiscation of our product was wrong.

'The reemployment of Angela and Paul is a great achievement and something we have been working towards for several months. It will no doubt help us on our journey to increase our production and sales.'

Buy Errington cheese

Why does this matter? Simple, if small food producers are held to impossibly high standards which don't seem to apply to large, industrial producers then the small producers will cease trading.

Scotland will not have an indigenous cuisine based around products that are unique to the land on which they are grown, reared or farmed. Scotland will not be a good food nation.

As ever, Joanna Blythman makes the case very effectively.

If you want to support Errington Cheese then you could buy their cheese