NZ: Dairy factory probed after E.coli, listeria found

By JARED MORGAN - The Southland Times | Wednesday, 22 October 2008

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The New Zealand Food Safety Authority is investigating a Western Southland dairy factory after E.coli was detected in its milk, and yoghurt produced at the plant was found to contain listeria.

The authority yesterday warned people not to consume Tuatapere-based Happy Valley Dairies milk produced on or after October 15 because it might contain high levels of E.coli bacteria.

The authority has issued Happy Valley Dairies with a direction to recall milk produced on or after October 15.

The milk, produced 101km north-west of Invercargill, is sold in the southern South Island and has batch dates of 151008 and after the batch date indicates day, month, year and use-by dates of October 28 and later.

New Zealand Food Safety Authority compliance and investigation director Geoff Allen said the authority was advising anyone who had the milk not to consume it and to return it to the place of purchase for a refund.

All dairy factories were required to take random microbiological samples of their product and the sample was found to contain high levels of E.coli, Mr Allan said. While the cause of the contamination had yet to be established, it was likely pasteurised milk had come into contact with faecal matter, possibly in raw milk or through "some other mechanism".

It was critical the recall be issued immediately, he said. "It's a short-life product the sooner we get this out to the consumer the better."

E.coli can cause serious illnesses, including gastroenteritis, and people with concerns should seek medical advice.

Yesterday's alert had dovetailed into an earlier investigation into yoghurt produced by the factory after it was found to have microbiological contamination with listeria monocytogenes.

A recall was issued for the yoghurt on October 13. The yogurts have a batch number of 071008 and customers should return the product to their retailer for a full refund, Mr Allen said.

The discovery of E.coli after the alert for listeria, meant the earlier investigation had been widened to look at the cause of both contaminants, and investigators were likely to be working at the plant for the rest of the week, Mr Allan said.

The authority was also looking at other products produced at the plant, he said.

Happy Valley Dairies owner Frans Venekamp said his feeling was the problem had arisen from a sample being too warm as it was tested, because cream produced from the same milk had tested fine.

Further testing was being carried out on milk produced on October 16 and 17 and if those tests showed there was a problem, the company would take steps to fix it, he said.

Results from those tests were expected today, he said.

Mr Venekamp's comments come after he and wife Jeanine returned from the 2008 Massey University Food Awards, where their company had been short-listed for its yoghurt and butter.



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