When botching the cleaning job sparks a botulism scare … is the reaction really excessive?

Let’s see if Alf has a proper grasp on this one.

Somebody was sloppy in the pipe-cleaning department at a Fonterra processing plant in Waikato.

A whey product made at the plant and in turn used as an ingredient by many of Fonterra’s customers has been contaminated with something that can cause botulism.

The Centers for Disease Control in the USA describes botulism as a rare but sometimes fatal paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin.

NZ’s Ministry for Primary Industries today said it still can’t rule out the possibility of babies being made ill by consuming contaminated infant formula.

But it also says it has confidence that all contaminated products in New Zealand have been identified, either by MPI or infant formula manufacturer Nutricia.

Fonterra’s chief executive, Theo Spierings, was quoted in the same Radio NZ report. He said all of the contaminated product has now either been recalled, contained by its customers or deemed safe. He said there is little or no risk to any consumers.

He also acknowledged that when Fonterra announced the contamination, it did not have all of the information at the time and apologised for the anxiety and discomfort caused to the public.

The media are full of reports of calls for heads to roll at Fonterra, and of warnings about the implications for this country’s very large trade with China, where consumers – until now, anyway – have been willing to pay a premium for food from this country. They preferred to deal with us because they believed we were clean and green.

Spierings today admitted our reputation in China has taken a hit.

This rubs off – whether we like it or not – on all food products from this country.

The Government has launched an inquiry, among other things to demonstrate to our overseas customers that we take the integrity of our food exports very seriously.

So let’s bring in the boss of Federated Farmers in Waikato for his thoughts.

Is he calling for heads to roll?


He is complaining the public clamour is “a bloody over-reaction”.

Federated Farmers Waikato president James Houghton questioned why there had to be a Government inquiry when “no-one is sick, no-one has died”.

“Most farmers are struggling to understand the circus at the moment.

“If you went out and tested a lot of other products you’d find scary things. Fonterra is being pro-active.”

The time for being pro-active, of course, was at the time the bloody pipe was being cleaned and someone failed to keep an eye on the bugger who botched the sterilising task.

When botch leads to botulism…

Wonder if James is a mate of the errant pipe cleaner!

One Response to When botching the cleaning job sparks a botulism scare … is the reaction really excessive?

  1. robertguyton says:

    “contaminated with something that can cause botulism.”

    I thought it was, “contaminated with something that is the cause of botulism”.

    But then, what do I know?

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