WELLINGTON, Sept. 4 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra on Wednesday admitted the use of "non-standard equipment" and communication failures resulting in the international botulism scare and recall of a batch of whey protein concentrate (WPC) last month.
Releasing the findings of the company's own operational review of the crisis, chief executive Theo Spierings said the precautionary recall was the result of "a number of separate and unrelated events occurring in an unforeseen sequence."
"Overall our systems worked well, while some aspects showed room for further improvement," Spierings said in a statement.
The cause of the contamination was the reprocessing of the WPC using "non-standard equipment" after concerns plastic might have got into the product.
The review found that a one-off lapse in information sharing led to delays in testing and that the issue should have been referred to Spierings himself earlier.
A major upgrade of the computer systems at some sites immediately prior to the recall resulted in product tracing taking longer than it should have.
The size and complexity of the recall was another factor, given the product had itself become an ingredient in the products of multiple customers.
The company had created a new role of group director of food safety and quality reporting directly to the CEO and launched an internal food safety and quality hotline for staff and contractors to raise any concerns about potential food safety risks, he said.
The Ministry for Primary Industries last week revealed the WPC, which is used in infant formula and other food products, was in fact contaminated by a relatively harmless bacterium, Clostridium sporogenes, rather than the botulism-causing bacterium.
The main opposition Labour Party said the central question of why Fonterra failed to inform the authorities earlier remained unresolved.
"We expect future inquiries to examine the relationship between MPI as regulator and Fonterra as the major company in the sector," Labour primary industries spokesperson Damien O'Connor said in a statement.
The government has said it will set up a ministerial inquiry into the botulism scare.