Fonterra, one of the leading suppliers of infant formula products and dairy products in the world, is facing a serious threat to its reputation. A strain of bacteria responsible for causing botulism has been detected in a series of tests conducted on the company’s products, officials from New Zealand claim.
Fonterra, based in New Zealand, is the fourth largest dairy company of the world, is a leading supplier of dairy products, infant formulas and sports drinks. This is an issue of serious concern since a huge number of countries have been obtaining milk for their infant formula manufacturing from Fonterra itself. Infant, China heavily relies on Fonterra for almost all of its milk powder requirements.
Following this revelation, China has now imposed a ban on Fonterra’s milk powder, as a way to prevent botulism affecting possibly the entire nation.
Botulism is a rather serious health condition caused by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. Even a minute amount of this toxin is enough to cause severe poisoning, sometimes even leading to paralysis.
“We are acting quickly,” Theo Spierings, chief executive of the company, said in a statement. “Our focus is to get information out about potentially affected product as fast as possible so that it can be taken off supermarket shelves and, where it has already been purchased, can be returned.”
A similar milk scandal had occurred in China in the year 2008, which claimed the lives of six babies, and made more than 300,000 infants sick.
The ban on products from Fonterra may seem to be a smart move, but it could also lead to a diary shortage in a few days. Currently, Mr Spierings has been sent to China to deal with the issue, according to the Fonterra officials.
The officials first discovered an issue in quality control in the month of March, and soon enough, a series of intensive tests later, the workers discovered the presence of Clostridium botulinum in a sample on Wednesday. The officials speculate that this may have something to do with the unsterilized pipes in the manufacturing unit.
“At present, we are continuing to verify information provided to us, and we will update further if any products are identified. Products on the market will be recalled if they are found to contain the contaminated protein,” acting director general of the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries, Scott Gallacher, explained. “We are also working with Fonterra to establish what has happened, how it happened, and what can be done to ensure it does not happen again.”
With the brand name and deteriorating health conditions of the affected nations at stake, Fonterra may prove to be an inspiration for other manufacturers to spike up their hygiene standards and have no room for mistakes.
“My understanding is the scientific testing that was done to achieve this result used modern day standards of technology. We always want to have done things quicker but the reality is, with current technology, that is how long it took. We have some of the most rigorous standards in the world,” Gary Romano, managing director of New Zealand milk products, said. “We are doing everything we can to assist our customers to ensure any product containing this ingredient are removed from the marketplace and the public is made aware.”
Fonterra claims to manufacture around 2.5 million tones of the ‘product.’