Fonterra fined over botulism scare

Fonterra has been fined $300,000 over the events leading to last year's botulism scare.

The Ministry for Primary Industries laid four charges against the dairy giant after it recalled 38 tonnes of whey protein concentrate last August.

The company had wrongly suspected the concentrate - which is used in products including infant formula - had been contaminated with a botulism-causing bacterium.

Further testing revealed it was a false alarm, but not before baby formula manufacturers had recalled thousands of cans of product.

Fonterra pleaded admitted all four charges, which relate to breaches of the Animal Products Act, last month.

The company was sentenced by Judge Peter Hobbs in the Wellington District Court today.

He imposed a fine of $300,000, which is lower than the total maximum penalty across all four charges of $500,000.

Fonterra is still facing civil action brought by the French company Danone, the parent company of infant formula maker Nutricia, which had to recall 67,000 cans of Karicare infant formula in New Zealand.

It has agreed to commercial settlements with seven other companies affected by the recall.

The charges:

* Processing dairy product not in accordance with its risk management programme.

* Exporting dairy product that failed to meet relevant animal product standards.

* Failing to notify its verifier of significant concerns that dairy product had not been processed in accordance with its risk management programme.

* Failing to notify the director general as soon as possible that exported dairy product was not fit for intended purpose.

- By Matthew Backhouse of APNZ

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