Faulty pump blamed for E coli scare

Last updated 05:00 02/02/2014

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A failed pump is thought to be the cause of the E coli contamination that forced Fonterra to recall 8700 bottles of fresh cream.

Located at the co-operative's Takanini plant, the pump is used to flush pipes with cleaning fluids during the cleaning process.

It gradually failed, resulting in a decreased flow rate of cleaning fluids in that section of the plant, Fonterra Brands NZ managing director Peter McClure said.

"We think that the decreased flow rate may have caused a residual buildup of cream and the E coli most likely formed in that residue."

He said Fonterra had immediately increased the flow rate within the plant's cleaning process to ensure there could not be any more buildup and installed an alarm that would sound if the pumps stop or slow down. Production would also cease if this alarm sounded, he said.

"What we are doing in the short term is opening up and inspecting that bit of the plant every week."

The faulty pump will be replaced and Fonterra was still investigating why it had slowed, he said. "In the meantime we are monitoring it very carefully."

McClure said he hoped these new measures would prevent future contamination.

"We're pretty much clear on what happened and we've taken steps we think are necessary to ensure that the risk is eliminated."

The E coli bacteria contamination last month caused Fonterra to announce a voluntary recall of 300ml and 500ml bottles of Anchor and Pams fresh cream. The bottles were distributed in the North Island from Northland to Turangi, including Gisborne, to retail and food service outlets.

McClure said they should know in four weeks which strain of E coli had contaminated the cream, when tests from Australia and Denmark were completed.

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- Sunday Star Times

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