Fonterra has issued a food safety warning to several customers, including an infant formula manufacturer, over concerns that Clostridium Botulinum-contaminated whey protein concentrate (WPC) may have entered the supply chain.
The New Zealand-based dairy giant has alerted eight of its customers to a “quality issue” involving three batches of its whey protein concentrate product, WPC 80. The batches in question were manufactured at a Fonterra processing site in New Zealand in May 2012.
Fonterra's WPC 80 is used by a number of the firm's customers in a range of products including infant formula, growing-up milk powder and sports drinks.
“For this reason, we immediately contacted our customers and the appropriate authorities, so that any potentially affected products could be removed from the marketplace,” said Fonterra NZ Milk Products managing director, Gary Romano.
No reports of illness
According to Fonterra, the customers, which it chose not identify, are investigating whether any of the contaminated WPC 80 made it into their supply chains. The companies have indicated that, if necessary, they will initiate consumer product recalls, Fonterra added.
To date, there have been no reports of illness traced back to the affected WPC 80 batches.
Fonterra, which is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of WPC, identified the issue in March 2013, when one of product tested positive for Clostridium.
After weeks of “intensive testing” following the initial positive test result, Fonterra identified the “potential presence” of Clostridium Botulinum.
Botulism, which is triggered by a nerve toxin produced by Clostridium Botulinum, can cause general muscle weakness, dizziness, double-vision, and breathing difficulties. Left untreated, botulism can lead to respiratory muscle paralysis.
Overseas authorities informed
In a statement, the New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) acting director general, Scott Gallacher confirmed that it has advised regulatory authorities in overseas markets about the situation, and that it is "working with Fonterra to establish what has happened, how it happened, and what can be done to ensure it does not happen again."
"Our focus is on ensuring that there are no contaminated products on the New Zealand market. We are working with Fonterra and its customers, to identify if there are any products posing a risk," said Gallacher.
"At present, we are continuing to verify information provided to us, and we will update further if any products are identified. Products on the market will be recalled if they are found to contain the contaminated protein," he added.