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It’s not Clostridium botulinum

28 August 2013

It’s not Clostridium botulinum

Farmers are hugely relieved that conclusive tests of the Whey Concentrate, WPC80, commissioned by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), have now cleared it of Clostridium botulinum.

“This news is a massive relief,” says Dr William Rolleston, Federated Farmers Food Safety spokesperson.

“Right now, we urgently need to communicate this news to regulators and to our global markets. The key message is that New Zealand dairy products are safe to consume and always have been.

“Fonterra did the right thing in being cautious when presumptive tests showed what might be a more serious contaminant. There are only a handful of places capable of confirming C. botulinum and this welcome news only apparently came through this morning.

“Speaking as both a biotechnologist and as a farmer, no biological test can return 100 percent specificity. When you are dealing with biological products nothing is absolute. That explains why these tests were presumptive and the recall was precautionary.

“There will still be questions to be asked and the various inquiries will show the reasoning and key timing points.

“Yet some questions still remain, for example, should Fonterra have talked to their customers in March, when testing showed a potential issue in the finished product from Hautapu.

“Food production from the farm to the finished product is about continuous quality improvement. While it does not seem like it right now, given there was no danger to public safety, this is a good opportunity for the New Zealand industry to accelerate its improvements ahead of the competition.

“This is a chance to enhance the reputation of New Zealand primary food exports by demonstrating how seriously we take quality.

“If there is a negative, it is that our competitors have now been given insight and data. We now have the potential loss of intellectual property. Industry, with the MPI, need to sit down to determine the best way of providing consumer assurance in these situations without compromising intellectual property.

“Overall, our key message is that New Zealand milk products, from our farm gates and right throughout processing, continue to rank amongst the safest in the world.

“Consumers can be reassured that New Zealanders go beyond many others in ensuring it stays that way,” Dr Rolleston concluded.


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