Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Fonterra crisis: MPI confirms bacteria not linked to botulism

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) says it has received results confirming that the bacteria found in the whey protein concentrate (WPC) manufactured by Fonterra is not Clostridium botulinum.

The organism is confirmed as Clostridium sporogenes. It is therefore not capable of producing botulism causing toxins. 

MPI said there are no known food safety issues associated with Clostridium sporogenes, although at elevated levels certain strains may be associated with food spoilage. 

“When MPI received information from Fonterra on 2 August 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 today. 

“MPI has today informed overseas regulators of these results, and we will be providing them with a full diagnostic report shortly.”

Scott Gallacher

MPI

“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.” 

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. 

“We 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,” Gallacher said. 

“MPI has today informed overseas regulators of these results, and we will be providing them with a full diagnostic report shortly. I will also be revoking my Director-General’s statement, issued under the Food and Animal Products Acts, about this issue.”

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