Macdoctor keeps up the heat on frozen peas

While the Greens remain quiet, the New Zealand Food Safety Authority’s compliance and investigation director Geoff Allen has had something to say about the contamination of Talley’s frozen peas with black nightshade (which apparently grows among peas as a weed).

Allen said Talley’s told him yesterday that the contamination had occurred after an unusually bad spate of nightshade in the 2007-2008 harvest.

The company withdrew several products in February after the contamination was noticed, he said. It had also traced the source of the nightshade to two growers and was increasing oversight before harvesting.

The same story at Stuff says:

Talley’s spokesman Robert Darragh said he believed the recent complaints were from consumers who had stored products recalled in February.


Macdoctor accordingly has updated his earlier posting on the subject to record the withdrawal of several products in February and the statement from Darragh.

I am pleased that Talley’s at least did some recall of their contaminated products. However, I assume this was a routine retail recall (product removed from supermarkets) rather than a consumer recall (needs extensive advertising campaign) – I do not remember any advertising informing the public of this problem.

Macdoctor then puts a slew of questions, first to Talleys:

• What was the extent of the recall of contaminated product?
• Why was the recall issued nearly four months after the first complaint?
• Given that they had received a complaint from a consumer with a potentially fatal 50% contamination, why did they not do an extensive consumer recall?
• What kind of quality control measures do they have in place to prevent this from recurring (note: they are NOT working!)
• Do Talley’s have any evidence that the recent contaminated products are stored from February’s stock, or are they just indulging in wishful thinking?
• Have Talley’s bothered to check their end-products to see if the contamination is still present?

And to the New Zealand Food Safety Authority:

• Is there a “safe” level of black nightshade contamination and what is it? (I’m betting no-one knows)
• Has the minister been informed of this?

Doing what the Greens Sue Kedgley seems not yet to have done (which is bloody curious for a politician who has a chronic urge to raise questions about food safety), Macdoctor sees too many parallels with the Chinese melamine baby milk scandal.

Possible sloppy farming techniques and inadequate quality control. A company dragging it’s feet in the face of real concerns about their product. A half-hearted, late, retail-only recall leaving potentially dangerous product still in the community. Lukewarm responses to the contamination until the media spotlight turns on them. These are all the signs of a company protecting its bottom line with little regard for its customers.

Thus he is maintaining his advice :

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