Fonterra scare false alarm

28/08/2013

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.


Apology and explanation

08/08/2013

Fonterra CEO Theo Spierings is back in New Zealand with an apology and an explanation:

Fonterra Chief Executive Theo Spierings today apologised for the anxiety caused over the past few days by the quality issue involving three batches of potentially affected whey protein concentrate (WPC80).

Mr Spierings briefed media in Auckland today about why Fonterra alerted regulatory authorities, customers and the public about the product, and provided a detailed overview of what happened following its manufacture.

“I understand the anxiety this issue has caused over the past few days and I apologise for this, particularly to mums and dads around the world.

“Food safety and public health are the top priority for Fonterra, and all parents and consumers have the right to know that their products are safe.

“On Friday 2 August, after a period of extensive testing we concluded that we had a potential food safety risk. The tests showed that this risk was minute but, that it was a risk nonetheless.

“For this reason, we immediately informed the Ministry for Primary Industries, our customers and the public even though we did not have all the information about product location on hand. Our priority was to alert people to the potential risk as we continued to gather facts and, along with our customers, identify and contain affected products,” said Mr Spierings.

Over the past few days Fonterra, regulatory authorities and Fonterra’s eight customers have located and secured products that were not in the market, and where they had already reached retail shelves, initiated recalls.

“I appreciate the way our customers and their local regulators have worked so quickly with us. Their fast actions and commitment to safety have meant that almost all products are now secured – and we are in the final stages.”

Describing the low risk involved, Mr Spierings said that Clostridium botulinum needs to remain in an anaerobic environment to survive: “When exposed to oxygen, Clostridium botulinum does not survive and, for this reason, it is not commonly tested for in dairy manufacturing.

“The discovery of this particular form of Clostridium will be the subject of discussions with regulatory authorities and our own technologists about requirements for future testing regimes and quality regulations.”

Mr Spierings said Fonterra will be conducting a comprehensive internal investigation to fully understand what happened, both before and after the affected whey protein concentrate was manufactured.

“Our priority is to focus on dealing with the current situation, following which we will conduct an extensive audit into what happened and what can be done differently in the future.

“I believe Fonterra has acted in a responsible manner, with public health at the forefront of our minds throughout,” Mr Spierings said.

Had communication been this clear and full from the start there would have been a lot less anxiety.

The company is right to have public health at the forefront of its mind but that doesn’t exclude having a good public relations strategy too.

The media abhors a vacuum and if it isn’t getting the good oil from the prime source it will go drilling elsewhere.

Since the news of the contaminated whey broke I’ve read and heard interviews with all sorts of experts giving their views on what might have happened.

All left me with more questions.

Had Fonterra got its media strategy right from the start the answers would have been given before the questions were raised.


Rural round up

04/08/2013

Food, drink and stock feed in whey crisis – Stephen Bell,

No Fonterra-branded consumer products are affected by contaminated whey, the firm said this morning.

It referred to the crisis following revelations it had produced 38 tonnes of whey concentrate contaminated with the potentially deadly Clostridium botulinum, which can cause botulism, as “the quality issue”.

The farmer co-operative’s statement said it had assured consumers in global markets including Australia, Asia, China, Latin America, New Zealand and the Middle East that none of its range of branded consumer products contained the affected whey protein concentrate (WPC80).

In addition to branded consumer products, Fonterra markets a range of commercial ingredients under its NZMP label. These ingredients are sold to other food companies that use them to manufacture their own consumer products. . .

Fonterra botulism scare caused by dirty pipe –  Amelia Wade , Matthew Theunissen:

The potential contamination of Fonterra products with botulism occurred as a result of a dirty pipe at the company’s Hautapu plant, it says.

Fonterra is still refusing to disclose which of its eight customers were potentially affected by the contamination, saying it was up to them and their regulatory authorities to make those decisions.

Managing director of New Zealand milk products Gary Romano said the contamination occurred as a result of a dirty pipe at Fonterra’s Hautapu plant in Waikato. . .

Russia bans all Fonterra products  – Christopher Adams:

Russia has made one of the most extreme responses to Fonterra’s contamination scare so far, banning all goods made by the New Zealand dairy giant, according to media reports.

Russia was not on the list of affected countries released by Trade Minister Tim Grocer yesterday, which included New Zealand, Australia, China, Vietnam and Thailand.

Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that the country’s consumer-protection watchdog was recalling Fonterra’s products, including infant formula, and advising consumers in Russia not to buy its products. . .

 

Asparagus bred to beat fungus – Tony Benny:

Canterbury plant breeder Peter Falloon has developed the world’s first asparagus cultivar to have resistance to phytophthora, a fungus that eats the plants’ roots and can devastate crops.

“It is exciting and the nice thing is it’s done in New Zealand, so the growers here can take advantage of it,” he said.

“One of the main drivers in food crops is reduced chemical application and this is a major aim of the asparagus industry in New Zealand. So this gives it a jump on the rest of the world.

“We can back some of our clean, green claims with the fact that this is one more chemical that we’re not using.” . . .

New HortNZ head well know to industry – Peter Watson:

Life just got even busier for Nelson fruit and berry grower Julian Raine with his election as president of Horticulture New Zealand.

Raine, who already has roles in other industry organisations, took over this week from Andrew Fenton who has been president since HortNZ’s inception in 2005.

Fenton said Raine was well respected in the industry and the ideal person to steer the national organisation through the next stage of its journey to becoming a $10 billion industry by 2020.

Raine, who was elected to the HortNZ board in 2011, said he accepted the nomination for president because he wanted to make a difference. . .

Organic carrots no hippy operation – Tony Cronshaw:

Rows of carrots spaced with a precision that could not be done by the human eye give the first clue that the Hicks family runs a modern arable operation.

There are no sandals or hippy beads at Willowmere Organic Farm in Hororata.

On the contrary, cultivated rows of carrots and other crops are prepared and planted at the large operation owned by the Hicks family of Kelvin and his parents, John and Trish, with satellite- aligned GPS equipment.

Kelvin says they make the most of advanced technology to push organic production. . .

Meads goes from breeding to beefing up events – Hugh Stringleman:

Performance Beef Breeders (PBB) chief executive Murray Meads has stepped down after 16 years to concentrate on events management and a new restaurant for the centre of Feilding.

Since 1997 Meads has grown the PBB bureau from four full-time staff members to 16, for the needs of 13 beef cattle breed societies and ancillary services and events.

His future role is events and project manager for Hot Wire Events, a new subsidiary of PBB. . .

This beautiful “189 Miles” wool installation by Angela Wright, featured in the Wool Modern Exhibition in Syndey in 2012 and wallspace at All Hallows church, London:

This beautiful wool installation by Angela Wright, featured in the Wool Modern Exhibition in Syndey in 2012. Click on the link to see the original exhibition and the creation process behind it  http://bit.ly/16NprGw
An illustrated explanation of how it was made is here. (Hat tip: Campaign for Wool)

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