Coca Cola and Danone issue recalls on Fonterra botulism scare

Two of the world's leading food and drink brands, Coca Cola and Danone, have issued product recalls following notification by New Zealand dairy producer Fonterra that they received an ingredient that included bacteria associated with the potentially fatal disease botulism.

The whey protein concentrate, WPC80, is a dried product used as an ingredient in infant formula and sports drinks.

In an update press conference this evening, Fonterra undertook to republish all recall information received from the eight previously unidentified customers in seven countries, including New Zealand, that have received shipments from a 38 tonne batch of whey protein concentrate, WPC80.

At this stage, Danone has issued recalls on products on shop shelves in China and New Zealand, and the Chinese operations of Coca Cola , and Wahaha Healthfood, a Chinese customer listed by Bloomberg BusinessWeek as distributing bottled water, have also recalled product.

Three animal feed companies in New Zealand and Australia, including Fonterra subsidiary NZ AgriBiz, have either issued recalls or contacted customers. An unnamed Vietnamese company has also taken action.

Coca Cola, Danone and Wahaha all believe heat and other treatments in the manufacturing process for their products will have neutralised any threat to human health from the presence of the bacteria in the Fonterra product.

Media reports that Russia had banned all kiwi dairy products were at this stage "unconfirmed," said Gary Romano, the general manager for Fonterra subsidiary NZ Milk Products, who has fronted all media appearainces since the crisis broke on Saturday morning.

Produced in May last year, the batch contained clostridium botulinum, a rare and dangerous form of a commonly found bacteria in the dairy industry. Its contamination only came to light in March, when Fonterra went to use some of the batch, and long after it had been shipped to foreign customers.

Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings is due to give a press conference China tomorrow, his first public appearance since the crisis broke, and is holding meetings with regulators and affected customers of the world's largest exporter of dairy products, many of the largest of whom are in China.

No Fonterra brand product has been affected, and fresh cheese, milk, and yoghurt are unaffected.

Trade Minister Tim Groser today described the situation as "very serious" and vowed attention in the first instance on the health of "the little babies" potentially affected, before turning to questions of blame.

In New Zealand, Nutricia Karicare Infant Formula Stage 1 (0-6 months) with batch numbers 3169 and 3170 was recalled today, after Karicare Gold+ Follow On Formula Stage 2 (6-12 months), with batch number D3183 was recalled.

Batch numbers are on the base of the tin.

The Chinese food safety authority, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, has ordered products containing Fonterra ingredients off supermarket shelves in China, and the issue has made the front page of the Financial Times website and is being reported throughout Australian, Asian, and global media, including Al Jazeera, the Wall Street Journal and The Guardian.

Much of batch of WPC80 concentrate was shipped after manufacture in May last year to eight customers in six countries: Australia, China, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Viet Nam, Trade Minister Tim Groser revealed this weekend. Such products are widely exported within Asia.