Fonterra announces Botulism ‘quality issue’ with whey protein, Karicare recalled in NZ

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 5th August 2013

New Zealand-based dairy manufacturer Fonterra has announced a ‘quality issue’ involving three batches of a particular type of whey protein concentrate (WPC80) produced at a single New Zealand manufacturing site in May 2012 and sold to other food companies. As a result, baby formula manufacturer Nutricia has recalled two of its Karicare brand infant formulas in New Zealand as a ‘precautionary measure’.

Fonterra said no Fonterra-branded products were affected by the issue, but that eight of its food manufacturing customers were “urgently investigating” whether any of the affected product, which contains a strain of ‘Clostridium Botulinum’, was in their supply chains.

The Company said it initially identified a “potential issue” in March 2013, when a product tested positive for Clostridium. According to Fonterra, there are hundreds of different strains of Clostridium, “most of which are harmless”.

Fonterra said product samples were then put through intensive testing over the following months. On Wednesday 31 July 2013, tests indicated the potential presence Clostridium Botulinum. Clostridium Botulinum can cause botulism, a rare but sometimes fatal paralytic illness.

The Company said the particular whey protein concentrate concerned was used by its customers in a range of products including infant formula, ‘growing up’ milk powder and sports drinks.

No reports of illness

There have been no reports of any illness linked to the consumption of the affected whey protein, according to Fonterra. The Company said dairy products such as fresh milk, yoghurt, cheese, spreads and UHT milk products were not affected.

“Food safety is Fonterra’s number one priority,” said Theo Spierings, Fonterra Chief Executive. “We take matters of public health extremely seriously and we are doing everything we can to assist our customers in ensuring any product containing this ingredient is removed from the marketplace and that the public is made aware,” he said.

Nutricia recalls baby formula in NZ

One of Fonterra’s food manufacturing customers, baby formula manufacturer Nutricia, has recalled two of its Karicare brand infant formula products in New Zealand as a ‘precautionary measure’.

The two recalled products are:

  • Karicare Infant Formula Stage 1 (0-6 months) in New Zealand only, with batch numbers 3169 and 3170 (use by 17/06/2016 and 18/06/2016).
  • Karicare Gold+ Follow On Formula Stage 2 (6-12 months) in New Zealand only, with batch number D3183 (use by 31/12/2014).

The batch number and use by date can be found on the base of the tin.

Australian Government ‘continuing to verify’ if any affected products are for sale in Australia

Australia’s food standards agency Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) said it is working to verify whether there are, or have been, any products for sale in Australia that contain the potentially contaminated whey product.

FSANZ said Australia received two batches of the potentially contaminated ingredient from New Zealand.

One had failed a test because of the presence of Clostridia, so was not allowed to be sold for human consumption. FSANZ said some of this product may nonetheless have been sold as stockfeed for animals, and tracing of this product had commenced.

A second consignment was used as an ingredient in products that have been exported to New Zealand, Thailand, Malaysia and China. The consignments were tested for Clostridia bacteria and were “found to meet commercial specifications for export”. FSANZ said the Australian Government is working with the importing countries to trace the product.

Consumers should follow NZ advice if buying online

FSANZ said consumers should follow advice from New Zealand authorities if they are purchasing potentially affected products over the internet directly from New Zealand. Advice can be found here.

Body building supplement cleared because it was heat treated

A body building supplement produced in New Zealand from the contaminated ingredient had been assessed by New Zealand authorities as having a “negligible risk” to human health because it had been subject to heat (UHT) treatment, according to FSANZ.

FSANZ said the Australian Government will continue to work with trading partners and New Zealand to manage the risks posed by the potential contamination.

Expert says bacteria is a “serious lapse” in process control

According to food microbiology expert at Auckland University of Technology (AUT), the source of the bacteria has been traced to a dirty pipe in a processing factory.

“If this is true, it’s a serious lapse in process control and obviously should not have occurred,” said John Brooks, Professor of Food Microbiology at AUT.

Professor Brooks also questioned why it took Fonterra several months to make the contamination public.

“There are some possible explanations for the delay: third parties may have tested the product at some point in their own manufacturing operations and found it; the contamination levels may be very  low, resulting in a requirement to test large amounts of product before the contaminants were found,” Professor Brooks said. “Certainly, once the bacteria had been isolated, using modern methods, it should not have taken long to confirm the identification,” he said.

Fonterra has announced potential contamination of whey protein