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MPI probe into Fonterra food scare to take up to six months

Monday 12th August 2013

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A Ministry for Primary Industries investigation into Fonterra Cooperative Group's potentially tainted whey protein concentrate will take up to six months.

Acting MIP director general Scott Gallacher said the 20-person probe spear-headed by the ministry's compliance director probably take between three and six months. The investigation will determine whether Food Act and Animal Products Act regulations were met, and whether any breaches of the legislation occurred. The ministry will undertake a formal debrief process of its own response to the scare.

"The investigation will include decisions made by all parties and their response, including during production of the whey protein concentrate, and from when anomalies in testing initially arose," Gallacher said.

"MPI will continue to provide operational updates on other matters relating to the potential contamination of whey protein concentrate, but it cannot comment any further on the compliance investigation until it is completed," he said.

The MPI investigation joins two Fonterra-led probes and potentially another government-led inquiry. Fonterra's board inquiry will be led by ex-Commonwealth Bank of Australia boss Ralph Norris, to whom Chapman Tripp QC Jack Hodder will report on the events leading up to and following the discovery of the bacteria.

The dairy exporter's management-led investigation will be headed by Fonterra group director of strategy Maury Leyland covering business processes, information and traceability systems, and current ways of working, including decision-making processes. She will report directly to chief executive Theo Spierings.

The contamination was confined to 38 metric tonnes of whey protein concentrate (WPC80) manufactured at Fonterra's Hautapu plant near Cambridge and first picked up at a plant in Australia. It was used in the manufacture of infant formula, juice and dairy beverages, yoghurt, body building powder, and animal stock food.

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