Two of the world's leading food and drink brands, Coca Cola and Danone, are recalling products following notification by New Zealand dairy producer Fonterra that they received an ingredient that included bacteria associated with the potentially fatal disease botulism.
A contaminated 38-tonne batch of dried whey protein concentrate, an ingredient in infant formula and sports drinks, has been used in products in seven countries including New Zealand.
At this stage, Danone has issued recalls of products on shop shelves in China and some of its Nutricia formula products New Zealand, while Coca Cola and another drinks company Wahaha Healthfood have also recalled product in China.
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 NZ dairy products were at this stage "unconfirmed," said Gary Romano, the general manager for Fonterra subsidiary NZ Milk Products.
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.
No Fonterra brand product has been affected, and fresh cheese, milk, and yoghurt are unaffected.
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.
Much of contaminated batch of concentrate was shipped after manufacture in May last year to eight customers in six countries: Australia, China, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Vietnam, Trade Minister Tim Groser revealed this weekend.