Fonterra scare false alarm

The Ministry for Primary Industries says 195 tests here and in the USA have shown the Fonterra botulism scare was a false alarm.

The Ministry for Primary Industries has received results confirming that the bacteria found in the whey protein concentrate (WPC) manufactured by Fonterra is not Clostridium botulinum. The organism is confirmed as Clostridium sporogenes. It is therefore not capable of producing botulism causing toxins.

There are no known food safety issues associated with Clostridium sporogenes, although at elevated levels certain strains may be associated with food spoilage.

“When MPI received information from Fonterra on 2 August that it had detected Clostridium botulinum in some of its products, I immediately adopted a precautionary approach to protect consumers both here and overseas,” acting director-general Scott Gallacher said today.

“We needed to act on what we knew at that time. The information we had then said there was a food safety risk to consumers and we moved quickly to address it.”

At the same time, MPI commissioned a further array of tests to validate the initial results Fonterra reported. A total of 195 tests using a range of technologies have been conducted in laboratories here and in the USA. Results from the most definitive of these tests arrived over night, and were assessed with appropriate technical advice on hand today.

“We sought additional testing at both local and international laboratories, seeking the most robust results we could get. Scientists used a range of methods – all came back negative for Clostridium botulinum,” said Mr. Gallacher.

“MPI has today informed overseas regulators of these results, and we will be providing them with a full diagnostic report shortly. I will also be revoking my Director-General’s statement, issued under the Food and Animal Products Acts, about this issue.”

A failure of hygiene during processing remains a concern for customers incorporating WPC into their products. However, the concern primarily relates to quality and the potential for spoilage when used in foods that support growth of Clostridium sporogenes from spores.

The scare was a false alarm but it was a wake up call to not just Fonterra but everyone who depends on our reputation for high quality, safe food.

We can not afford to be complacent.

If we want to trade on our reputation we must ensure that it is matched by the highest possible standards in what we do and how we do it.

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One Response to Fonterra scare false alarm

  1. JC says:

    At this stage I’d say we need to forget about a good deal of the publicity and concentrate on three stages..

    1. The first and obvious is the unexplained delay between finding a problem and informing MPI and the politicians.. thats where the bulk of an inquiry should lie and where a great deal of accountability should begin.

    2. The second is the actions taken by MPI, a great many people are going to say the Ministry went overboard and premature.. but I doubt thats how a Chinese mother would see it.

    3. And the third is really a continuation of 2.. have we just set a template on how authorities should act on matters of food safety?.. I think we have and its a good story of ruthlessly putting public safety first.. a method that will long term rebound to our advantage.

    JC

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