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New Zealand Dairy Giant Fonterra Finds Botulism Bacteria in Whey Protein, Issues Global Recall

Aug 03, 2013 11:24 AM EDT
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New Zealand-based Fonterra -- the world's fourth largest dairy company -- issued a global recall of up to 1,000 tons of dairy products across seven countries after finding some of its products contain a bacteria that could cause botulism.

Clostridium botulinum, the bacterium in question, was found in a whey protein concentrate labeled WPC80, which is used as an ingredient infant formula, body building powder and other beverages. New Zealand's Ministry of Primary Industries said that besides New Zealand, affected countries include China, Australia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia.

China, which imports the majority of its milk powder from New Zealand, has asked its domestic importers to recall any products which may have been contaminated with the bacteria.

On its website, Fonterra reported that no products with the Fonterra brand are affected by the botulism bacteria. The company markets and sells a number of commercial ingredients under the label NZMP.

"The three specific batches of WPC80 produced at a single New Zealand manufacturing site, which were identified by Fonterra in its initial announcement, are the only NZMP ingredients affected by this quality issue," the company wrote on its website.

Some of the customers who bought affected product from Fonterra received a finished product manufactured by Fonterra, while others just received the affected WPC80 as an ingredient.

The contamination was reportedly caused by unsterilized pipes at a dairy factory in Waikato.

News that Fonterra products are linked to a recall may leave a sour taste in the mouths of many Chinese, as the company is intending to launch its own brand of milk formula in China, Reuters reports, notably five years after Fonterra's involvement in another episode of contaminated infant formula, which killed at least six and sickened thousands.

Earlier this year, Fonterra said it found traces of dicyandiamde, a potentially toxic chemical used in fertilizer, in some of its products, Reuters reported.

As the world's fourth largest dairy company, Fonterra has annual revenues of about $16 billion, according to the Associated Press. News of a contaminated product coming from Fonterra could be a blow to New Zealand's dairy industry, which powers the country's economy. Ninety-five percent of milk produced in New Zealand is exported, according to the AP.

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