The Ministry for Primary Industries says it has received
results confirming that the bacteria found in the whey
protein concentrate (WPC) manufactured by Fonterra was not
the botulism-causing clostridium botulinum.
"The organism is confirmed as Clostridium sporogenes. It is
therefore not capable of producing botulism causing toxins,''
the ministry said in a statement.
"There are no known food safety issues associated with
Clostridium sporogenes, although at elevated levels certain
strains may be associated with food spoilage,'' it said.
"When MPI received information from Fonterra on August 2 that
it had detected Clostridium botulinum in some of its
products, I immediately adopted a precautionary approach to
protect consumers both here and overseas,'' acting
director-general Scott Gallacher said in a statement.
"We needed to act on what we knew at that time. The
information we had then said there was a food safety risk to
consumers and we moved quickly to address it,'' he said.
At the same time, MPI commissioned a further array of tests
to validate the initial results Fonterra reported.
A total of 195 tests using a
range of technologies have been conducted in laboratories
here and in the USA.
"Results from the most definitive of these tests arrived over
night, and were assessed with appropriate technical advice on
hand today,'' he said.
The ministry sought additional testing at both local and
international laboratories, seeking the "most robust results
we could get''.
Scientists used a range of methods - all came back negative
for Clostridium botulinum, he said.
MPI said it had informed overseas regulators of these
results, and would provide them with a full diagnostic report
Mr Gallacher said testing was done at local and international
He said MPI had today informed overseas regulators of the
The Clostidium sporogenes bacteria that was identified did
not represent a health risk but was linked to potential food
Mr Gallacher said on the back of the results, New Zealand and
Fonterra now had a solid and clear platform from which to
re-enter overseas markets affected by the scare.
He said the affair showed parents and caregivers could be
assured that the NZ Government and regulators would act
responsibly and transparently when a potential food safety
A failure of hygiene during processing remained a concern for
customers incorporating WPC into their products. However, the
concern primarily relates to quality and the potential for
spoilage when used in foods that support growth of
Clostridium sporogenes from spores.
The news that there was no botulism risk from the Fonterra
batches of whey would come as a huge relief to consumers
around world, as well as to the company and the New Zealand
food industry, Food & Grocery Council chief executive
Katherine Rich said.
"This is fantastic news. Mum and dad buyers of infant formula
around the world will be particularly relieved at this news.
There was never a risk to their babies. The food companies
involved should be applauded for their decision to do their
She said while some people would now ask whether the
precautionary recalls were a waste of time, the answer was
"From a food industry perspective Fonterra did exactly the
right thing - they put public safety first,'' she said.
"Fonterra CEO Theo Spierings made the correct and only
appropriate call. As other CEOs within the FGC membership
would agree, he would have been derelict in his duty as head
of a global food company had he not acted so promptly,'' Ms
Labour's primary industries spokesman Damien O'Connor called
the results a "complete systems failure by the Ministry for
'' ... our failure to ensure the highest standards of
testing, monitoring and auditing means the damage has been
done to New Zealand's international reputation,'' he said.
"This fiasco continues to be a disaster for our clean, green
brand. The inability of the ministry's systems means our
reputation is always at risk.''
- Addtional reporting Adam Bennett of the New Zealand