AgResearch defends Fonterra test findings
In a new twist to the Fonterra dairy product false botulism scare, Crown research institute AgResearch has taken the unusual step of publicly defending itself against suggestions its test findings contributed to the export market fiasco, now under official investigation.
The Hamilton-based science institute last night issued a statement to address the "public misunderstanding surrounding work undertaken by AgResearch" in relation to the samples provided by Fonterra for testing.
AgResearch said contrary to some statements, it had not confirmed the presence of Clostridium botulinum in the Fonterra supplied samples.
AgResearch, said it had "reported that the research had potentially detected Clostridum botulinum and recommended that further testing be conducted".
Government-commissioned tests of the whey protein concentrate samples, at the centre of last month's baby formula possible contamination alert by Fonterra, last week concluded it was a false alarm.
No further comment was available from AgResearch, but the institute is clearly responding to public statements by Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings.
Immediately after the Government's all-clear announcement, Spierings implied that Fonterra was misled by AgResearch's conclusions and prompted to issue a recall of possibly contaminated products.
Yesterday's statement from AgResearch was the second within a week in which it defended its work and reporting to Fonterra. Science sector sources said it was an unusual step for a state institute.
A Government inquiry into events around the scare is expected to report its findings next month. A Primary Industries Ministry inquiry is also ongoing, as is an inquiry by Fonterra's board of directors.
A Fonterra-led investigation into internal operations this week identified processing contamination issues and communication lapses for the contamination and false alarm, believed to have cost the company millions of dollars in lost revenue, while also damaging New Zealand's trade food safety reputation.
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