It astounds me that it has taken 15 months before Fonterra’s management even cottoned on to the fact that 38 tonnes of whey protein concentrate was contaminated with a bacterium that causes botulism, a toxin that can lead to paralysis and death. Why was there such a huge delay of five months between testing in March this year showing a problem and Fonterra doing anything about it? That’s five months while 900 to 1000 tonnes of contaminated food was produced and then distributed throughout New Zealand and the world.
But what is perhaps even worse is the way in which the public was informed about the contamination. Conveniently taking the focus off the government spying scandals, first we were told that it was only two batches of Nutricia Karicare Infant Formula Stage 1 for babies and Stage 2 Follow-on Formula for children that was potentially contaminated with Clostridium botulinum. Four days later we learn that it’s all batches of those two products as well as a number of other Fonterra based products that should be avoided.
On Tuesday, John Key claimed that hospitals were now being monitored for any cases of botulism, even though the clean up crew of Steven Joyce and Tim Groser had previously said the contaminated products hadn’t made it onto shop shelves. Did the Prime Minister forget that only two days earlier his buddies had claimed the contaminated products were contained? They informed us all the contaminated product had been isolated to a couple of warehouses and a cargo ship. Why would the government be monitoring hospitals for cases of botulism if that were true? To make matters worse, on Monday we learned that Hospitals have been using potentially contaminated baby formula in their neonatal intensive care units and children’s wards, clearly showing that the contaminated product wasn’t isolated at all.
According to the government, they and Fonterra are being totally transparent about all this. In fact the government has held numerous press conferences to inform the public they have everything under control and are handling the situation perfectly. The left might not be trying to capitalize from the huge amount of fallout surrounding this issue, but that isn’t stopping the government grandstanding and taking every opportunity to appear the concerned hero. Unfortunately all they’ve managed to do is make a number of inaccurate statements and produce a couple of incorrect public health warnings about what products to avoid. Pathetic!
Why the frack can’t our largest exporter and the government get it right and inform the public properly when things go wrong? Instead, there is the distinct stench of bullshit in the air.
In my opinion, Fonterra is just as incompetent and liable as the government. Once again they’ve tried to hide the fact their product is unsafe for human consumption. This latest fiasco is similar to the melamine contaminated baby formula that killed numerous babies in China. In that case Fonterra knew their product had been poisoned but failed to notify the Chinese public properly. Such terrible mismanagement was also displayed when, earlier this year, New Zealand officials pressured Sri Lanka to suspend testing of New Zealand milk powder samples for radionuclides. One has to wonder if Fonterra’s milk products have already been contaminated by landfarming, a practice where waste from the hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells, contaminated with hydrocarbons, chemicals, heavy metals and quite likely radioactive particles, is disposed of by spreading it onto land where cows graze.
Clearly New Zealand has been badly tarnished by such events. Ongoing contamination alerts, like the milk powder containing the lethal agrochemical Dicyandiamide (DCD), are effectively making our 100% Pure brand worthless. In that case documentation obtained by the Green party showed the Ministry for Primary Industries new about the DCD contamination on October 30 last year but waited until January 24 this year before informing the public. That’s three months while the government came up with a public relations strategy; a plan that included numerous press releases claiming DCD at the levels detected were perfectly safe. Conveniently for them an unsuspecting public had already consumed the entire potentially hazardous product, so no further testing was available.
We should expect nothing less than complete transparency and honesty when we’re talking about people’s lives being put at risk by contaminated food. Let’s not beat around the bush…Fonterra and the government deserves a good kick up the backside for these ongoing problems. Clearly, the time for diplomacy has ended.