January 14, 2014

Fonterra recalls Anchor, Pams fresh cream products on E coli contamination



Fonterra announced a voluntary recall of 300 millilitre (ml) and 500ml bottles of Anchor and Pams fresh cream with a best-before date of January 21, 2014, distributed in the North Island from Northland to Turangi, including Gisborne due to E coli contamination but it is not known how many of the 9000 bottles were affected, while cause was being investigated.


Federated Farmers dairy chairman Willy Leferink said the voluntary recall showed Fonterra's quality assurance systems worked.


Leferink said he hoped it showed consumers that a company owned by thousands of New Zealand farmers put food safety first. The fact Fonterra's own testing led to the recall showed the company was a "responsive and responsible" food processor, he said.


A Fonterra spokesman said the contamination had been traced to Fonterra's processing plant at Takanini in South Auckland. It is the largest processing site in the country for Fonterra Brands New Zealand, employing 600 people and is also home to the company's head office. This was a different plant to where the dairy giant's botulism contamination scare occurred last year.


Fonterra Brands managing director Peter McClure said the E coli was "very unlikely" to have come in with the milk from the farms and it was "almost impossible" that the contamination could have been deliberate. However, he said he did not want to speculate on how the contamination happened.


McClure said E coli contaminations were "very rare" and this was the first time in at least 18 years that a Fonterra product had tested positive for the bacteria.


Fonterra said it would not know how many bottles of cream had been returned until next week. So far, the company had received a few calls from customers asking what to do if they felt ill after consuming the cream but more calls were expected now the story was in the media, Fonterra said.


According to the Fonterra, the Takanini factory also produces milk, UHT and cultured dairy food. The factory's core product is fresh milk and the site's seven filling lines package more than 298,000 litres of fresh milk a day and can produce about 6.4 bottles a second.


Foodstuffs group communications manager Jo Jalfon said this morning that the company, which owns New World, Pak'nSave and Four Square, had received a few calls from customers asking questions about the contamination and recall but there had not been any reports of illness.


Jalfon said the product would have "largely sold through" by now and had probably been consumed by customers. Customers had not returned any of the affected products to the company early this morning.


The recall does not affect any other Anchor or Pams products.


Consumers are advised not to consume the product and to return it to where they bought it for a refund.


The E coli contamination follows a major botulism scare for Fonterra last year which led to thousands of infant formula products being recalled. The scare, which eventually proved to be baseless, damaged confidence in New Zealand dairy products, and last week French food giant Danone said it had withdrawn its supply contract with Fonterra and had was seeking compensation through the New Zealand High Court after identifying €300 million (US$410 million) in anticipated business losses for the 2013 financial year.


Fonterra Shareholders' Council chairman Ian Brown said the contamination was a "reality of life" and it appeared Fonterra was being "very proactive" by announcing the possible contamination.