AgResearch isn’t very popular in the south following the announcement of its proposal to relocate most of its activities from Invermay to Lincoln.
It won’t be very popular with Fonterra, MPI, government or anyone else caught up with the fallout from the botulism scare now it’s been found it was responsible for the test which showed the possible botulism contamination in a batch of Fonterra’s whey protein concentrate.
Subsequent tests – all 195 of them – have contradicted that and shown that the WPC was safe.
AgResearch has issued a media release saying:
A spokesperson for AgResearch said: “We have today received correspondence from Fonterra in relation to testing carried out by AgResearch for Fonterra.
“Under the terms of our contract with Fonterra, we are bound by a confidentiality agreement and cannot discuss specific details.
“However, we have reviewed our work and we are confident in the work that our experts carried out and reported to Fonterra.
“Both the Government and Fonterra are conducting investigations into the issues and we are involved in these inquiries.
“We have also sought to discuss the concerns raised today directly with Fonterra and we are engaged with MPI regarding these developments.”
Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings said while there is a sense of shared relief that the product was not contaminated, Fonterra had done the right thing by initiating a precautionary recall.
“Food safety remains our number one priority.
“The original results from AgResearch indicated the presence of toxin-producing Clostridium botulinum in the affected whey protein concentrate and we could therefore not take any chances,” he said.
Fonterra originally commissioned independent testing from Crown Research Institute, AgResearch, as one of only two research facilities in New Zealand capable of carrying out testing for Clostridium botulinum.
“On the basis of the results we received from the AgResearch tests, we had no choice but to alert regulators, and announce a global precautionary recall with our customers.
“We have just learned of the further and definitive test results. While we share a sense of relief about them, this in no way lessens our commitment to undertaking a thorough review into what happened, and to learn from this experience.”
Mr Spierings acknowledged there had been confusion and anxiety arising from the complexity of the precautionary recall and apologised for it.
“The past few weeks have been very difficult for parents in a number of countries, as well as for our customers, our farmers, and our staff.
“For me, as Fonterra’s CEO and as a father of three children, I truly believe that in initiating the recall, we took the right decision and did the right thing at the most critical moment. Given the same circumstances, and with food safety always front of mind, I would do the same again.
“Food safety and quality must always remain our top priority. I have created a new role of Group Director, Food Safety and Quality that reports directly to me. Fonterra already has world-class food safety systems, and we’ll make sure that our dedication to food safety is further embedded in everything we do.
“The news today does not affect the various reviews and inquiries underway. We are committed to learning from, and sharing, any findings about how we can improve. We will do this in an open and transparent way,” Mr Spierings said.
There will be lessons for AgResearch too.