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August 16, 2013

NZ: Fonterra puts “senior managers” on leave amid botulism review

Fonterra has placed "two senior managers" on leave as it presses on with an internal investigation into the causes of the botulism contamination scare at the world's largest dairy exporter.

By Dean Best

Fonterra has placed “two senior managers” on leave as it presses on with an internal investigation into the causes of the botulism contamination scare at the world’s largest dairy exporter.

The New Zealand dairy giant said the unnamed managers had been put on leave immediately. Fonterra had not returned a request for comment on the roles of the two senior managers at the time of writing.

Chief executive Theo Spierings said: “We are moving quickly and establishing key facts about what has happened and, as they emerge, we are taking appropriate action.”

Fonterra said the review is looking at issues including its traceability systems and decision-making processes. The Fonterra board is conducting a separate investigation into the affair, which started a fortnight ago when the company announced whey protein concentrate contained a bacteria that could cause botulism.

The scare prompted product recalls across Asia, including by Fonterra customers including Danone, Abbott Laboratories and Coca-Cola Co. It has also led some countries to issue import bans on Fonterra’s products.

On Wednesday (14 August), Fonterra announced Gary Romano, the head of its domestic milk products business, had resigned. Fonterra did not specify whether his depature was directly linked to the contamination and the subsequent investigations but Romano was the first senior executive to exit the company since the recall.

Spierings, who has faced calls to step down, has assumed the day-to-day operations of the division.

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