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2 November 2018 15:30:00 |Dairy,News

Small cheese maker wins legal dispute against South Lanarkshire Council


South Lanarkshire Council wanted to dispose of the small cheese producer’s entire stock after a suspected E.coli link (Photo: Errington Cheese)

South Lanarkshire Council wanted to dispose of the small cheese producer’s entire stock after a suspected E.coli link (Photo: Errington Cheese)

The founders of Errington Cheese have won a further legal dispute with South Lanarkshire Council in relation to four batches of cheese confiscated by the Local Authority in 2016.
The council was taken to court by the cheesemaker after it accused the company of breaching health regulations and sought to have stocks of cheese destroyed.
South Lanarkshire Council wanted to dispose of the small cheese producer’s entire stock after a suspected E.coli link.
On Thursday (November 1) the Court of Session ruled that Sheriff Robert Weir, QC, who condemned the cheese as being unsafe to eat, had "misdirected" himself, acting "unreasonably and irrationally at common law, contrary to the approach required as matter of EU Law."
Sheriff Weir had accepted the argument from South Lanarkshire that a draft policy document produced by Food Standards Scotland allowed him to condemn the cheese.
In doing so, Sheriff Weir assumed a policy document can override the requirements of EU regulations - which state if an uncertain organism is suspected in food, a comprehensive risk assessment must be undertaken, before the food can be condemned.


South Lanarkshire Council must now release the three batches of Corra Linn cheese and one of Lanark Blue, although the latter produce is now unsaleable.
Compensation
The company continues to pursue a compensation case against the local authority for both its legal costs in fighting the case and for the business impact of the incorrectly condemned product.
Speaking about Lord Bannatyne’s judgement, founder of Errington Cheese, Humphrey Errington 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."
The turbulent period has been detrimental to the business, with sales falling to as low as 25% of pre-2016 levels, forced to lay off staff and funnel almost all its cash reserves into a costly legal battle.
Mr Errington added: “We’re delighted the Court of Session has ruled in our favour with the company’s efforts now focussed 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," he said.
Last month, the South Lanarkshire based cheese producer opened up its production facilities to mark the Great British Cheese Day (Sunday, October 21), inviting members of the public onto the farm to taste some cheese and gain an insight into the processes behind it.




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