Fonterra Accepts Charges Following Botulism Scare

New Zealand's Ministry for Primary Industries charged Fonterra with breaching the Animal Products Act.

NEW ZEALAN—Fonterra Limited said it has accepted four charges filed against it by the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) in connection with a botulism scare last year.

Last summer, the New Zealand dairy cooperative recalled whey protein concentrate found in such products as beverages, infant formula and supplements based on suspicion that the concentrate had the potential to cause the sometimes fatal disease botulism. MPI said subsequent tests revealed the bacteria found in the products was not associated with any food-safety issues.  

MPI charged the New Zealand dairy cooperative with breaching the Animal Products Act. Maury Leyland, a Fonterra managing director, said Fonterra accepts the allegations and fully cooperated with MPI's investigation.

“We have previously detailed issues relating to the decision to reprocess the original WPC80, and being slow about escalating information—which are reflected in the charges laid by MPI," Leyland said in a statement. “Food quality and safety remain our top priority, and are fundamental to our business. New Zealand’s dairy food production and safety systems have been affirmed by both the Board and Government inquiries as being as safe as any in the world."

Leyland said the botulism scare prompted Fonterra to thoroughly examine the event and determine steps to minimize the risk of such an occurrence in the future.

“Fonterra is committed to complying with New Zealand’s food safety and quality regulations, and being held accountable if it does not," she said.

Earlier this year, Danone announced plans to file a lawsuit against Fonterra in connection with the recall. According to Bloomberg News, the yogurt company lost an estimated $407 million of free cash flow due to the event.

The botulism scare affected markets in Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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