Fonterra hot on trail of E coli contamination

GERALD PIDDOCK
Last updated 15:03 21/01/2014

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Fonterra says it should know today the source of the E coli contamination that triggered a voluntary recall on some of its fresh cream products.

An investigation by the co-operative ruled out the pasteurisation process as the cause of the E coli, Fonterra Brands NZ managing director Peter McClure said.

"We're focusing in on a couple of areas. I don't know if we'll ever have the exact definitive cause of it but we'll certainly have the most likely areas that could have caused it."

McClure said they knew the contamination occurred in the cream during post-pasteurisation because their testing of the pasteurisation process came back negative.

"All of the testing was fine for the pasteuriser."

The E coli contamination caused Fonterra to announce last week a voluntary recall of 8700 300ml and 500ml bottles of Anchor and Pams fresh cream with a best before date of January 21, 2014, distributed in the North Island from Northland to Turangi, including Gisborne.

The cream was distributed to retail and foodservice outlets.

McClure was hopeful that the type of E coli found was one of the organism's more benign strains.

"We're still doing a whole bunch of testing but we have eliminated the two most serious types," he said.

Further testing of the E coli was taking place in Australia and he expected to get the results back in the next week.

In an email to shareholders, Fonterra chairman John Wilson said the cream recall was "extremely frustrating".

"A lot of work is being done in our co-op around food safety and quality."

Wilson said all of the affected product was off the shelves and Fonterra is continuing to inform the public of the affected batch numbers.

"Management are now going over every aspect of what happened and how the recall was handled."

In an update of Fonterra's milk production, Wilson said the co-operative still saw good milk flows with production up 3.6 per cent this season season to date.

"In the last three months, between October and December, our New Zealand distribution centres packed a record 789,000 tonnes of product."

This was 44,000 tonnes up on the same three months last year, he said.

Wilson said it was beginning to dry out now in some parts of the country and the season would depend on the weather over the next two months.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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