Contaminated whey protein sparks international recall

| August 15, 2013

According to press reports a batch of whey protein produced in New Zealand by dairy company Fonterra has been found to be contaminated with a strain of bacteria capable of producing botulinum toxin. The discovery has led to product recalls in at least seven countries.

Fonterra has issued a statement saying that it identified a potential problem in March when a sample tested positive for Clostridium bacteria. After further confirmatory testing a Clostridium botulinum strain identified as a potential toxin producer was isolated on 31 July, at which point the company informed customers in receipt of the contaminated whey powder. Products including infant formula, sports drinks and protein drinks have since been recalled in New Zealand, Australia, China, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia.

The contamination is thought to have been the result of a failure to sterilise pipework at Fonterra’s plant in Waikato in May 2012. It affected three batches of whey powder making up 42 tons of product. According to New Zealand Government sources this material was then used as an ingredient in around 1,000 tons of other products worldwide. No related cases of illness have been reported as yet, but China, Vietnam and Russia have all banned further imports of milk powder and whey protein from Fonterra.

Fonterra recall information

Guardian news story

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