E.coli find destroys Southland dairy business

The owners of a Southland dairy factory at the centre of a food recall say their business has been destroyed.

Frans and Jeanine Venekamp have decided to walk away from the factory after E.coli bacteria was detected in a sample of milk.

The couple closed the 16-month-old business, Happy Valley Dairy Factory in Tuatapere, and laid off two staff yesterdau.

Mrs Venekamp told The Southland Times they were disappointed in the New Zealand Food Safety Authority and media handling of the recall.

On Tuesday New Zealand Food Safety Authority officials warned people not to consume Happy Valley milk produced after October 14, because it may contain high levels of the bacteria, and issued Happy Valley Dairies with a direction to recall milk produced on or after October 15.

Happy Valley sells its milk to supermarkets, dairies and other shops in the southern South Island.

The authority's compliance and investigation director Geoff Allen said all dairy factories were required to take random microbiological samples of their product and the sample was found to contain high levels of E.coli.

While the cause of the contamination was yet to be established, it was likely pasteurised milk had come into contact with faecal matter, possibly in raw milk or through "some other mechanism".

E.coli could cause serious illnesses, including gastroenteritis, and people with concerns should seek medical advice.

Mrs Venekamp said the company spent about $4000 a month on testing.

"We, more than anybody else, want our product to be healthy and safe for people to use with confidence," she said.

The cause was possibly a warm sample of milk sent for testing, she said. Usually, samples are chilled.

However, after a positive test for listeria in yoghurt on October 13 she had been fastidious about testing.

"We have been doing so much testing of our milk and that is why the samples were still warm and that in turn maybe why the E.coli bacteria bug was present."

Mrs Venekamp said normal recall procedure was a public notice in newspapers and a letter to suppliers, However, it was broadcast over radio and TV and published in newspapers and online.

But authority compliance and investigation director Geoff Allen said because the authority could not get in touch with the couple it was important to get the recall out to prevent people from consuming the product.

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