Ministry files charges against Fonterra

by NZ Lawyer14 Mar 2014
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has filed four charges against Fonterra Cooperative Group in the Wellington District Court for breaches of the Animal Products Act relating to last year’s whey protein contamination scare.

The MPI alleges that Fonterra failed to process dairy products in accordance with its risk management programme and didn’t notify authorities about the lapse, exported dairy products that failed to meet animal product standards and failed to notify the ministry’s general as soon as possible that the product’s quality wasn’t up to standard.

The charges relate to a series of incidents in May, 2012, when workers became concerned after a piece of plastic fell into a drier. Rather than downgrade the product, it was decided to reprocesses the powder using a non-standard transfer pipe that was thought to be the source of the contamination. A global recall of the product in question directly followed the incident.

The contamination was ultimately found to be a harmless strain of bacteria.

In a statement, Fonterra’s director of people, culture and strategy, Maury Leyland, said the cooperative had been “slow” in escalating information about the contamination.

“The WPC80 event caused us to examine in detail what happened, why it happened, and what we must do to minimise the risk of it ever happening again,” Leyland said.