New Zealand's Fonterra launches another recall

Updated: 2014-01-14 09:45


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WELLINGTON - New Zealand's food safety regime was in the spotlight again Tuesday after dairy giant Fonterra launched yet another product recall.

Fonterra Brands New Zealand announced late Monday that it had begun a voluntary recall of 300ml and 500ml bottles of fresh cream under its own Anchor brand and another supermarket brand across the upper North Island.

The recall involved 8,700 bottles of fresh cream that had been distributed to retail and foodservice outlets, said a statement from Fonterra.

Fonterra Brands New Zealand managing director Peter McClure said in the statement the recall was launched because quality tests showed the possible presence of the E.Coli bacterium in some bottles of cream.

Industry group Federated Farmers said the recall showed the farmer-owned cooperative's quality assurance systems were working.

"While the timing is far from ideal given what went on last year, this is a voluntary recall initiated by Fonterra's own testing," Federated Farmers dairy chairperson Willy Leferink said in a statement.

"When testing does find a problem then no matter what the product is, or the timing, a voluntary recall is completely justified," said Leferink.

However, the main opposition Labor Party said the recall had once again tested the credibility of the country's food safety systems, despite Fonterra taking appropriate action once the dangerous bacterium was identified.

"The timing of food testing and the accuracy of information provided to companies such as Fonterra needs further scrutiny," Labor primary industries spokesperson Damien O'Connor said in a statement.

Areas of food safety and science continued to be under- resourced and not up to international best practice, said O'Connor.

"Fonterra is our biggest company, food production is our biggest export and New Zealand cannot afford mistakes that can further damage our international reputation," he said.

Last week French food firm Danone announced it was canceling its supply contract with Fonterra and starting court proceedings in New Zealand and Singapore to claim compensation for last year's botulism scare.

Fonterra launched a global recall in August after batches of whey protein concentrate were wrongly found to be contaminated with a botulism causing bacterium, forcing Danone's Australasian subsidiary, Nutricia, to recall batches of its own Karicare infant formula.

Danone said the affair illustrated "serious failings on Fonterra's part in applying the quality standards required in the food industry."

The botulism scare prompted the New Zealand government to launch an official inquiry into the incident and food safety standards.

Last month, ministers pledged to tighten the food safety regime despite the inquiry issuing a report last month finding no failures in the regulatory system.