A family-owned dairy farm have denied they are the source of an outbreak of the dangerous bug E.coli.
Barnsley Council and Public Health England issued a statement advising customers not to drink milk from Darwin's Dairy, near Penistone, and have asked the farm's owners to recall their products currently on sale after 18 people in South Yorkshire were diagnosed with the illness.
Yet fifth-generation farmer Ben Darwin posted on the dairy's Facebook page to claim that the investigation was 'pure speculation' and that he has obtained milk from a neighbouring farmer in order to fulfill his doorstep delivery orders.
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The council's director of public health, Julia Burrows, said that a potential problem was identified with the pasteurisation process at the farm in Oxspring, where the milk comes from a free-range herd.
Environmental health officers visited the family-owned business after an increase in E.coli cases in Doncaster, Barnsley and Sheffield this month. Nine of the 18 victims had consumed Darwin's products, although the farm has not been confirmed as the source of the outbreak.
All of those affected are recovering from the stomach illness, which can be fatal in extreme cases.
Ben Darwin said:-
"Regarding the statement put out by Barnsley Council on a product recall for our milk. I would like to clarify that there is no confirmed link or evidence with the health issues highlighted in the council's statement - it’s pure speculation and I am deeply upset and frustrated that such a statement can be released without sufficient evidence. We strive to supply our loyal customers with a quality local product that is regularly tested to the highest standards required. I hope this answers any questions or worries you may have.
"I am out this morning doing our doorstep deliveries, but as we are still waiting for the local authority to present us with any evidence of wrongdoing or any answers as to when we can start bottling milk again, so the milk I am delivering I have had to source from a very good neighbour of mine. I just don’t want to let people down.
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"Thank you to all the support I have received it is appreciated, it makes us as a family think we can get through this."
Darwin's supplies milk to local shops, cafes and other businesses in the area and has a doorstep delivery round in Thurgoland, Silkstone Common, Oxspring, Hoylandswaine and Penistone. Their clients include Sheffield wedding venue Spicer Manor.
Barnsley Council statement
Statement from Julia Burrows, director of public health at Barnsley Council and Dr Nachi Arunachalam, consultant in communicable Disease Control at Public Health England Yorkshire and the Humber:-
“Barnsley Council and Public Health England are informing residents across South Yorkshire of a recall of dairy products from Darwin’s Dairy.
“As a precautionary measure, we have advised Darwin’s Dairy to recall all milk, (whole milk, skimmed and semi-skimmed) and cream products currently in circulation. This became necessary after a potential processing problem was identified with the pasteurisation process that could have affected some milk and cream products that could still be stored in people’s fridges.
“Their products can be identified by:
- A Darwin’s logo somewhere on the container either ‘Darwin’s Dairy’ or ‘NP & DJ Darwin Ltd’
- Wording: ‘produced at Whitefield Farm, Oxspring, Barnsley’
- An oval mark bearing the following inside the oval ‘UK YB006 EC’.
“The dairy is co-operating fully with our advice. If you have bought these products, do not eat or drink them but dispose of them.
“Environmental Health Officers visited the dairy after Public Health England Yorkshire and the Humber became aware of an increase in E.coli cases in South Yorkshire, though it is important to be aware that the dairy has not been confirmed as the source of the outbreak at this stage.
"A total of 18 confirmed or probable cases have been identified in people with links to Barnsley, Doncaster or Sheffield in November 2019. Nine of these cases are known to have consumed Darwin’s Dairy products before becoming unwell. Those affected are recovering at home and in hospital.
What is E.coli?
E.coli can cause a serious infection in those with weakened immune systems or vulnerable groups, including babies, the elderly or pregnant women. Symptoms of E.coli include stomach cramps and diarrhoea that may be bloody. These usually last up to a week. However, some infections can be severe and may be life-threatening. As with all instances of diarrhoea and vomiting, it is important that people keep hydrated and stay away from work or school for as long as symptoms persist. If you do notice blood in your stool, contact your GP immediately.