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The dairy farm believed to be at the centre of a major E.coli outbreak that has left one person dead and 11 hospitalised is a traditional family run firm that supplies Waitrose, Neal’s Yard Dairy and Booths.

Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese, which is located in the picturesque village of Goosnargh, was established in 1978 by Ruth and John Kirkham before they handed it over to their son, Graham. 

The artisan producer is the last cheesemaker in Lancashire that uses raw milk – which comes from their own herd of 100 Holstein Friesian cows. This means it doesn’t go through the pasteurisation process that kills potentially harmful bugs. 

 The site is believed to be the source of an outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E.coli (STEC) that has led to at least 30 people falling ill across the country, including children as young as seven. 

Four of Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese products have been recalled by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) as a precaution. They are mild and creamy Lancashire, tasty Lancashire, mature Lancashire, and smoked Lancashire.

Booths, known as the ‘northern Waitrose’, and Neal’s Yard Dairy have recalled all the cheeses they sell from the farm. All sizes of No 1 Waitrose and Partners, Farmhouse Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese with use by dates from Oct. 30, 2023, to Jan. 16, 2024 have also been withdrawn from sale.

Inside the family-run dairy farm at centre of E-coli outbreak in artisan cheese thought to have killed one Brit and left 11 hospitalised – as health officials recall products

Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese is located in the picturesque village of Goosnargh. It was established in 1978 by Ruth and John Kirkham before they handed it over to their son, Graham (pictured) 

The company has a loyal local following, with scores of customers vowing to buy more of its cheeses once its current troubles are over. Pictured are John and Ruth Kirkham

The company has a loyal local following, with scores of customers vowing to buy more of its cheeses once its current troubles are over. Pictured are John and Ruth Kirkham 

Some of the company's festive cheese products. There is no suggestion any of the cheeses pictured were affected by the outbreak

Some of the company's festive cheese products. There is no suggestion any of the cheeses pictured were affected by the outbreak

Some of the company’s festive cheese products. There is no suggestion any of the cheeses pictured were affected by the outbreak

A biography on the company’s website describes how Ruth Kirkham began making cheese in 1978 after learning the skills from her mother, Ruth Townley. 

She and her husband John then set about turning what had been a piggery into a cheese making dairy, which remained in use for 30 years until 2008. 

At this point the farm was a small-scale operation which produced 44lbs of cheese a day from a herd of 40 Holstein Friesian cows. In the mid-1980s they began selling to Neal’s Yard Dairy in London. 

Revealed: The cheese being recalled

Waitrose & Partners No 1 Farmhouse Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese, 200g, is being recalled for the following use by dates:

30/10/2023, 02/11/2023, 07/11/2023, 10/11/2023, 20/11/2023, 28/11/2023, 04/12/2023, 11/12/2023, 13/12/2023, 20/12/2023, 23/12/2023, 02/01/2023,

Products purchased between October 1 and December 24 are also being recalled for the following:  

  • Mrs Kirkham’s Mild & Creamy Lancashire
  • Mrs Kirkham’s Tasty Lancashire
  • Mrs Kirkham’s Mature Lancashire
  • Mrs Kirkham’s Smoked Lancashire

By the 2000s the couple’s son, Graham, had joined the family business and oversaw and increase in production. By 2008 he had opened a new milking parlour and increased the size of the herd to 100. 

In an interview with the Guardian, Graham described how his cheeses are ‘made by hand, cloth-bound and finished with full-cream clarified butter’ to give a ‘moist, creamy finish’. 

He said they were usually sold after being matured for between three and six months.

‘Making cheese is bloody hard work, but it isn’t just a job, it’s a way of life,’ he added. 

A description of Mrs Kirkham’s flagship Lancashire cheese on the Neal’s Yard Dairy’s website hails its ‘inimitable crumbly-yet-creamy texture’ and ‘bright, full flavour finished off by a light, yoghurty tang’. 

The company has a farm shop, which currently only appears to be selling three types of pickle, oatcakes and one ‘guest cheese’. 

Mrs Kirkham’s has a loyal local following, with scores of customers vowing to buy more of its cheeses once its current troubles are over. 

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said some people may have been given Mrs Kirkham’s cheeses unknowingly in festive hampers and charcuterie boards. The affected products can be sold as full blocks or individual portions.

MailOnline understands the death was reported in Scotland. The victim’s age was not revealed. 

A seven-year-old child is among those ill, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). The oldest was 81.

All tested positive for a specific type of E.coli called 0145, with tests suggesting the strain was more severe than standard ones.

Their son Graham Kirkham posing for a photo in a field of cows

Their son Graham Kirkham posing for a photo in a field of cows

Mrs Kirkham's Lancashire cheese is located in the picturesque rural village of Goosnargh

Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese is located in the picturesque rural village of Goosnargh

Health chiefs are still probing the outbreak to determine whether any other sources could be to blame. 

STEC is spread by eating contaminated foods, such as raw leafy vegetables or undercooked meat.

The very infectious bacteria can also be spread by touching infected animals or their faeces and coming into contact with other people who are sick.

Symptoms include vomiting, fever, stomach cramps and diarrhoea, the UKHSA says. 

But in up to 15 per cent of cases, the bug can cause haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a life-threatening condition that can lead to kidney failure.

Children under the age of five are most commonly affected by HUS.

However, it can also affect other vulnerable groups, including the elderly and immunocompromised. 

UKHSA chiefs said people should take extra care to both avoid infection and potentially passing it on to others.

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

‘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.’ 

Safety chiefs have since urged the public not to eat four varieties of Mrs Kirkham's Lancashire cheese, which is made using raw cow's milk

Safety chiefs have since urged the public not to eat four varieties of Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese, which is made using raw cow’s milk

Symptoms of Shiga Toxin producing E.coli include severe diarrhoea and vomiting, according to the UK Health Security Agency

Symptoms of Shiga Toxin producing E.coli include severe diarrhoea and vomiting, according to the UK Health Security Agency 

Mrs Kirkham’s originally recalled four types of cheese: Mild and Creamy Lancashire, Tasty Lancashire, Mature Lancashire and Smoked Lancashire. 

The manufacturer, which is based in the village of Goosnargh and claims to be the last remaining raw milk Lancashire cheesemaker in the world, has since recalled all of its products as a precaution. 

Yesterday, Waitrose also recalled its No.1 Farmhouse Kirkham’s Lancashire product, which is made by the same family-run business.

The FSA first issued a ‘precautionary’ recall alert of the four Mrs Kirkham products on Christmas Eve. 

Waitrose & Partners No 1 Farmhouse Kirkham's Lancashire Cheese sold in 200g packs is being recalled over fears it could case food poisoning following the E. coli outbreak. This comes after four varieties of Mrs Kirkham¿s Lancashire cheese were urgently recalled and slapped with a 'do not eat' alert over contamination fears

Waitrose & Partners No 1 Farmhouse Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese sold in 200g packs is being recalled over fears it could case food poisoning following the E. coli outbreak. This comes after four varieties of Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese were urgently recalled and slapped with a ‘do not eat’ alert over contamination fears

Mrs Kirkham’s said: ‘We are working very closely with our local Environmental Health Officers and the FSA to fully understand the situation, and whether our products have been correctly implicated.

‘This recall relates to new testing techniques designed to better identify potentially dangerous strains of Shiga Toxin producing E. coli. 

‘Unfortunately, these new testing techniques are not currently industry standard.’

The statement also said that due to many laboratories currently being closed over the festive period the business had been left in ‘limbo’.

‘We will be suspending all orders until investigations are completed and we have some answers,’ it added.

At the time, the agency cautioned that further recalls of other products might be issued as investigations continue.

Tina Potter, head of incidents and the FSA, said: ‘We are aware this recalled product may be popular over the festive period, especially as it has been sold as part of a Christmas gift hamper.

‘So we are urging consumers to check whether they have bought or been given this product.’

The UKHSA, FSA, Public Health Scotland (PHS) and Food Standards Scotland are working together with other partner agencies to investigate the outbreak.

A PHS spokesperson said: ‘PHS can confirm there has been one death associated with E.coli O145 in Scotland.

‘We are continuing to monitor the situation in Scotland and are working with UKHSA, who are investigating at a UK-wide level.’

Antonia Hay, 17, is believed to have tested positive for a separate strain, numbered O157

Antonia Hay, 17, is believed to have tested positive for a separate strain, numbered O157 

The type of E.coli linked to this outbreak is different to the one which hospitalised a teenage girl who fell seriously ill over the festive season.

Antonia Hay, 17, is believed to have tested positive for a separate strain, numbered O157.

The aspiring actress spent almost two weeks in intensive care, only coming home temporarily on Christmas Day.

She has had multiple operations, including to remove part of her bowel, and a blood transfusion as kidney failure meant she required dialysis.

Antonia’s father, Steve Hay, believes it was caught from food bought from a local market in Great Missenden, Bucks, around November 25.



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