Home > Inquiry into Fonterra’s contamination scare finds shortcomings

Inquiry into Fonterra’s contamination scare finds shortcomings

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An independent inquiry into Fonterra’s whey contamination scare has made 33 recommendations to address the issues that led to the false alarm which resulted in the recalling of 38 tonnes of whey protein.

It was believed that an unsanitary pipe at the company’s Hautapu plant in May 2012 was the cause of the contamination scare. The company feared that the whey protein concentrate could contain a bacterium that can cause botulism - a potentially fatal paralytic illness. However, further testing revealed that the bacterium was not actually present, and that there was no health risk.

The inquiry found problems with tracing potentially contaminated product and belated escalation of the issue, The Mercury reports.  

Team leader of the inquiry, Jack Hodder QC said that the inquiry uncovered a number of operational shortcomings.

“There were shortcomings in a number of areas, which, compounded by a number of events and co-incidences, converged to create this significant issue,” said Hodder.

Significant findings in the inquiry included:

  • Insufficient senior oversight of testing for Clostridium botulinum
  • Clostridium botulinum testing framework inadequate
  • Inability to promptly track affected batches
  • Delay in recognising the reputational risk to Fonterra of the scare
  • crisis management planning and external communications lacking
  • Cleaning regimes at some Fonterra plants needed improvement.

The report recommended a review of Fonterra’s food quality and safety was in order in addition to the establishment of an incident management team and a new board risk committee as well as amended plant cleaning processes.

"Much of the recommended change is already under way, or has already been identified as needing to be changed," said Fonterra’s chairman, John Wilson.

"We are committed to adopting a 'best of class' philosophy around food safety and incorporating the latest, world class methods into every facet of our operations."

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