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False alarm in Fonterra botulism contamination scare

, August 29, 2013, 0 Comments

Dairy giant Fonterra has said its milk products at the center of a global contamination scare did not contain a bacteria that could cause botulism. The company said the products posed no food safety threat to the public.

New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) said Wednesday that tests show a contaminant found in Fonterra whey protein concentrate could not cause botulism and that there was no risk to the public when it was pulled from shelves earlier this month.

“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 acting MPI director General Scott Gallacher. “[The] MPI has today informed overseas regulators of these results and we will be providing them with a full diagnostic report shortly.”

When original tests showed that the product might contain botulinum, which can cause potentially deadly botulism, there was a mass recall of Fonterra products in a number of markets, including China, Australia and Southeast Asia. It also prompted a ban in Russia and Sri Lanka, however Fonterra said Wednesday that it resumed operations in Sri Lanka.

The latest test results pointed to clostridium sporogenes, which cannot cause botulism. “There are no known food-safety issues associated with clostridium sporogenes, although at elevated levels certain strains may be associated with food spoilage,” a statement from the MPI said.

Fonterra, which accounts for about a third of the world’s dairy exports, has said the contaminated product was caused by a dirty pipe at one of its processing plants.

Acting director-general Scott Gallacher said officials were right to issue a public warning early.

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

Source: Deutsche Welle |