Recall views differ

Damien O'Connor.
Damien O'Connor.
Federated Farmers believes Fonterra's recall of thousands of bottles of cream shows the dairy giant's quality assurance systems work - but Labour says questions will again be raised about New Zealand's food safety systems.

This week 8700 bottles of Anchor and Pams cream, which had been distributed in the North Island, were recalled because of the potential presence of E. coli.

The announcement continues a spate of negative publicity for Fonterra, including last year's botulism scare, which turned out to be a false alarm but which attracted global media headlines and subsequent legal action, announced recently, by French dairy giant Danone.

While the timing was ''far from ideal'' given last year's events, it was a voluntary recall initiated by Fonterra's own testing and Federated Farmers dairy chairman Willy Leferink hoped it showed consumers the company put food safety first.

''It should also tell our consumers that when a Fonterra-owned brand is on the shelf, someone back at Fonterra is testing it to ensure it remains safe to consume.

''It also shows that traceability is working because the co-op has zeroed in on the batches involved and locations they were sold in,'' Mr Leferink said.

While it was a ''fairly rare'' event for the co-operative, it generated much media attention given the botulism scare, he said.

Labour's primary industries spokesman, Damien O'Connor, was concerned the recall ''once again'' cast doubt on the credibility of New Zealand's food safety systems.

The timing of food testing and the accuracy of information provided to companies such as Fonterra needed further scrutiny, Mr O'Connor said.

''The Government has been spending hundreds of millions of dollars through its Primary Growth Partnership fund, yet areas of food safety and science continue to be under-resourced and not up to international best practice,'' he said.

He said Labour had been calling for the independence of the Food Safety Authority, which is now within the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Green Party agriculture spokesman Steffan Browning said another contamination scare was not the start to the year that Fonterra or New Zealand needed.

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