Fonterra chief vows to step up quality checks at dairy plants after food scares

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The chief executive of embattled New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra on Thursday pledged to step up quality checks at its plants after two international food safety alerts involving its products were revealed this month.

Theo Spierings said extra quality assurance was "the right thing to do," particularly because the plants made ingredients or products consumed by infants and very young children.

"Fonterra will check, double check and triple check, if necessary," Spierings said in a statement.

The pledge followed the discovery of a bacterium that can cause botulism in whey protein concentrate produced at Fonterra's North Island Hautapu plant in May last year, he said.

"The additional quality assurance at Hautapu and our five other nutritional plants over the coming months will encompass further checking and servicing of all equipment and processes to ensure they continue to meet the highest possible international standards, " he said.

"Every year, each of our plants undergoes thorough maintenance and review during winter, before being re-commissioned for the new season. They are also routinely cleaned, tested and maintained throughout the season. This year in light of the precautionary recall we are going one step further."

The program would begin at the Hautapu site next week, before being rolled out to Fonterra's other nutritional plants.

His comments followed a commitment this week by the Ministry of Primary Industries to step up regulatory oversight of New Zealand' s dairy industry, pending the results of investigations by the ministry and the government into the causes and handling of the botulism contamination crisis.

It was revealed on Wednesday in New Zealand that a shipment of Fonterra-made lactoferrin was stopped in China in May after Chinese authorities found it contained excessive levels of nitrates.

Lactoferrin made by rival New Zealand firm Westland Milk Products was also the subject of a recall in China this month for the same reason. Endi

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