New Zealand dairy exporter Fonterra earlier this week issued a recall of whey protein, believed to be contaminated with the bacteria Clostridium, prompting importing countries to issue recalls on the products.
Clostridium has been known to cause botulism. The protein is used by Fonterra's customers in a range of products including infant formula, milk powder and sports drinks, said Gary Romano, Fonterra's managing director of NZ Milk Products. Further investigation found the product in customers' calf milk replacer.
"Food safety remains our number one priority and we take matters on human health very seriously," Gary Romano, Fonterra's NZ Milk products managing director said, reinforcing that "there's been no reports of any illness linked to consumption of the affected whey protein."
The presence of the bacteria was confirmed July 31st, Romano said, and was traced back to three batches of product manufactured in one New Zealand factory in May, 2012.
Eight of Fonterra's customers purchased the product. "We are doing everything we can to assist our customers," Romano said. "Our focus is to get the information out about potentially affected products as fast as possible."
First signs of elevated levels of Clostridium bacteria were identified in March, 2013, at which time Fonterra completed additional tests. However, the company notes that there are hundreds of different strains of Clostridium, the majority of which, they said, are harmless.
According to New Zealand's Ministry for Primary Industries, the contamination potentially occurred when the whey protein concentrate was processed in a dirty pipe at a Fonterra plant.
Also according to the MPI, Russia placed a temporary ban on New Zealand dairy exports, and China has suspended imports of Fonterra-produced Whey Powder and Dairy Base powder, and increased inspection and supervision at the border for New Zealand dairy products.
According the U.S. Dairy Council, no U.S. products are involved.