News this morning that the Ministry for Primary Industries has filed four charges against Fonterra, in court in Wellington, was followed by a statement in which Fonterra said it accepted responsibility for the allegations.
Press Release – Ministry For Primary Industries
The Ministry for Primary Industries yesterday filed charging documents in the Wellington District Court against Fonterra Limited, following the Ministry’s compliance inquiries into last year’s Whey Protein Concentrate incident.
Charging documents have been filed for the following four charges:
• Processing dairy product not in accordance with its Risk Management Programme
• Exporting dairy product that failed to meet relevant animal product standards
• Failing to notify its verifier of significant concerns that dairy product had not been processed in accordance with its Risk Management Programme
• Failing to notify the Director General as soon as possible that exported dairy product was not fit for intended purpose.
MPI cannot make further comment as the matter is before the courts.
News from Fonterra
Fonterra Limited (Fonterra), a wholly owned subsidiary of Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited, accepts the charges arising from the Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) investigation into events leading up to the precautionary whey protein concentrate (WPC80) recall last year. It was subsequently confirmed that the recalled WPC80 did not present a health risk.
MPI examined whether Fonterra had complied with all its food safety and quality obligations, under New Zealand’s Food Act and Animal Products Act in connection with the events leading to the precautionary recall. MPI has filed four charges against Fonterra Limited relating to breaches of the Animal Products Act.
Fonterra’s Managing Director People, Culture and Strategy Maury Leyland said Fonterra had co-operated fully with MPI throughout its investigation, and accepts responsibility for the allegations made in the charges.
“We have accepted all four charges, which are consistent with the findings of our Operational Review, and the Independent Board Inquiry.
“We have previously detailed issues relating to the decision to reprocess the original WPC80, and being slow about escalating information – which are reflected in the charges laid by MPI.
“Food quality and safety remain our top priority, and are fundamental to our business. New Zealand’s dairy food production and safety systems have been affirmed by both the Board and Government inquiries as being as safe as any in the world.
“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.
“We are making good progress on implementing the necessary improvements the Operational Review and Independent Board Inquiry identified.
“We are also working with the Government to progress all the recommendations of its review of New Zealand’s dairy food safety regulatory framework, undertaken last year.
“Our customers and consumers need to know that New Zealand’s food quality and safety regulations are being robustly applied by food manufacturers and enforced by New Zealand authorities.
“Fonterra is committed to complying with New Zealand’s food safety and quality regulations, and being held accountable if it does not,” said Ms Leyland.
News from NZ Labour Party
The Ministry of Primary Industry’s legal action against Fonterra is a cynical ploy to make the Prime Minister look good in China, Labour’s Primary Industries spokesperson Damien O’Connor says.
“The charges laid by MPI in the Wellington District Court today are a face-saving exercise for John Key on the eve of his mission to China to apologise for Fonterra’s botulism scare last year.
“This whole debacle occurred because food safety testing by Crown research institute AgResearch and oversight by AsureQuality failed. While a mistake occurred, Fonterra was relying on advice from government entities which were not adequately resourced.
“Exports to China have rocketed in recent years but the Government’s penny pinching has left MPI lacking the funding it needed to do its job properly.
“This legal action is an insult to our single biggest exporter.
“Fonterra’s only mistake was in taking swift action in response to technical advice, which proved to be flawed.
“These charges raise questions about whether the Government is trying to discredit Fonterra to boost the operations of Oravida in China. Oravida was quick to call for more Government action when the botulism scare unfolded. Perhaps John Key should take his Justice Minister Judith Collins with him to China?
“There is still one report into the botulism scare yet to be completed. MPI must release this report which it promised to deliver before John Key leaves on his apology tour,” Damien O’Connor says.
News from Federated Farmers
Federated Farmers is pleased to see Fonterra has accepted the Ministry for Primary Industries’ four charges over the whey protein concentrate recall last year.
“This scare has been invaluable learning curve for Fonterra and they are making positive changes already to make sure this never happens again,” says Willy Leferink, Federated Farmers Dairy Chairperson. “Our reputation for food quality and safety is paramount to our success on the world stage. Whilst this product recall was a false alarm it has unearthed some flaws in Fonterra’s system. By whole heartedly accepting the charges laid by MPI yesterday, Fonterra has shown they are on the front foot of this issue.
“This is not just a lesson for Fonterra, all food producers in New Zealand should take note and learn from their experience, I am sure there will be a case study coming out soon. Our customer’s perception of us can make or break our industry, I know I am not alone in saying we hope this never happens again,” concluded Mr Leferink.