Fonterra confirmed today (28 August) that fresh tests of its recalled whey protein found that the ingredient was in fact free from clostridium bolulinum, a bacteria that can cause botulism.
Fonterra initiated a precautionary recall of its whey protein concentrate earlier this month, after initial tests suggested that it was contaminated with the bacteria.
The whey protein was distributed as an ingredient to eight customers in various markets. The Fonterra recall prompted a number of follow-on recalls, including that infant formula manufactured by Danone and Abbott Laboratories and sold in China.
The recall also prompted the Chinese authorities to impose import restrictions on Fonterra products. Russian regulators also moved to restrict imports.
The recall prompted the New Zealand government to launch an inquiry into the affair. The widespread public debate saw two senior managers at Fonterra placed on leave and Gary Romano, the head of the company’s domestic milk products arm, quit the business.
However, Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings stood by the decision to initiate a recall.
“The original results… indicated the presence of toxin-producing Clostridium botulinum in the affected whey protein concentrate and we could therefore not take any chances,” he said. “We had no choice but to alert regulators, and announce a global precautionary recall with our customers.”
Spierings said that Fonterra has created a new role, group director of food safety and quality. “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.”