The Food Standards Agency and Kirkham’s Lancashire took the precautionary step of recalling various Lancashire Cheese products because of concerns that the products might contain E.Coli. The recall was precautionary and was not specifically related to any illness associated with batches that we selected or sold.
Cheesemaker Graham Kirkham has been working closely and openly with his local health inspector. At every stage of this recall inspectors have affirmed that his cheesemaking and hygiene practices are robust and his proactivity and dedication during this trying time has demonstrated that he is a cheesemaker of both skill and integrity. None of over 40 samples taken of Graham’s cheese had a positive result for the pathogen associated with the outbreak.
As part of Neal’s Yard Dairy’s commitment to championing British cheesemakers, we work to protect the future of raw milk cheese and to engage the technical and scientific community. To that end, our Technical Director Bronwen Percival - who is also the chair of the Specialist Cheesemakers’ Association’s Technical Committee - has been working closely with Graham to make the case for the safe sale of Kirkham’s Lancashire to the relevant authorities. Bronwen has been in technical meetings with Graham since the start of the recall and she, along with Graham’s Environmental Health Officer and the FSA are confident that Graham’s procedures are robust and the cheese is safe for sale.
One of the fundamental ways that Neal’s Yard Dairy supports the improvement of British cheese is by ensuring its continuation. In 1939 there were 202 farms making cheese in Lancashire, but now the Kirkhams run the only farm making raw-milk Lancashire cheese. The fragility of this status and the vulnerability of this heritage has never been more apparent than over the last month. With the investigation into Kirkham’s Lancashire, the future of the last raw-milk farmhouse version of this important style of British cheese has been threatened, not to mention the status of raw-milk British cheese as a whole. Not only do we want to preserve this endangered cheese and ensure that it isn't lost like so many other traditional British farm cheeses, but we want to support Graham and his family. We have been working with the Kirkhams since the late 1980s and visit their farm once a month to taste and select cheese together. This relationship started with Graham’s mother Ruth and now continues with him.
During this recall we have been touched by messages from customers who want to support Kirkham’s Lancashire. Many of you have been eating this cheese for decades and shared with us fond memories of serving it at weddings, reaching to it in favourite comfort dishes or discovering it at restaurants who have featured it. This support has meant a lot to us and to Graham and has brought comfort and motivation during a difficult time. We hope that you can join us in celebrating this heritage, in supporting a small producer and ultimately enjoying a delicious cheese by buying it through our website, our shops or featuring it on your menus and shop counters.
Update 02.01.24 All early tests carried out by government laboratories on Kirkham's Lancashire cheeses have come back negative. Furthermore, their local authority has not identified any issues or concerns in the Kirkham's manufacturing process. The Food Standards Agency is doing further testing and the results will take a few days to become available. The FSA is also continuing its investigations of other products with a view to identifying the source of the outbreak.
Update 29.12.23 The FSA has clarified that the recall refers only to cheeses that we purchased, rather than sold, since 1st October. This means that Kirkham's Mature Lancashire is no longer subject to the recall as its age precludes it.
What is E.coli?
The organism of concern is a strain of E. coli that can cause diarrhoea or bloody diarrhoea in complicated cases. The immunocompromised, elderly, and young children are the most vulnerable to complications.
I’ve eaten Lancashire cheese. Will I get sick?
The recall is precautionary and not specifically related to any illness associated with batches that we have selected or sold. We ourselves have been tasting and eating this cheese in quantity since October with no ill effects. The producer and the FSA will be doing further investigations over the coming days and we hope that we will get more clarity and can put people’s minds to rest.
I’ve exhibited symptoms of E.coli. What do I do?
If anyone who ate the cheese experiences symptoms of E.coli they should contact a doctor or go to A&E and mention that they have consumed this product.
What safety procedures do you have in place to protect consumers?
We aim to select the best farm cheese in Britain, those that have the finest flavours achievable, highest level of safety that can be attained, and that conform to legal requirements. We look to mature cheese when we think the flavour will improve, recognise when cheese tastes as good as it can, and sell cheese when it is at its best.
We aim to sell cheese that has been hygienically produced, has as small a food safety risk to our customers as possible, in accordance with current industry codes of best practice.
We have worked with cheese makers for over twenty-five years. During this time, our quality system has been based on direct contact with the cheese makers, farms, cheeses, and our customers.
We have built up an understanding of the cheeses we handle over this period. Our current quality system has been developed and formalised in response to the company’s growth. It is continually assessed and improved in accordance with our quality aims in order to provide compliance with the current food safety legislation.
In an effort to be transparent and provide as much information on our quality system as possible to our customers, a number of relevant documents are available here.
I purchased Lancashire that I couldn’t eat. Am I entitled to a refund?
Yes, we will offer you credit to use on a future order or a refund. Where customers can’t produce receipts for their purchase, we will offer a token voucher for use on our website or in our shops.
I have Lancashire in my fridge. What shall I do with it?
If you have bought the above product do not eat it. If you purchased it from our shops, please weigh it and include that information when you get in touch with us. Then dispose of it.
If you purchased it from us online, please dispose of it.
If you purchased it through our wholesale department, please speak with your account manager who will either direct you to return it to us or will advise you to dispose of it.
Please wash your hands, equipment, utensils and surfaces that may have come into contact with the product thoroughly.
I’m a shop customer, what do I do?
If you have purchased Lancashire from either our Bermondsey, Borough Market, Covent Garden or Islington shops, please speak directly with the shop team where you bought it or email us on email@example.com with the details of when you purchased it, how much your bought and which shop you visited.
I’m a trade customer, what do I do?
If you have purchased Lancashire from our wholesale team, please speak directly with your account manager who will let you know the next steps.
I purchased other cheese from you. Is that safe to eat?
Yes. The recall is only for Kirkham’s Lancashire cheeses. The recall is precautionary and not specifically related to any illness associated with batches that we have selected or sold. We ourselves have been tasting and eating this cheese in quantity since October with no ill effects.
Thank you for your support during this complex and challenging recall. We look forward to being able to return this wonderful cheese to sale as soon as possible.