16 Aug 2013

Two Fonterra managers sent on leave in botulism probe

11:07 pm on 16 August 2013

Fonterra has placed two of its senior managers on leave as it continues its internal investigation into the whey protein botulism scare.

Fonterra chief executive officer Theo Spierings says the company is moving quickly and establishing key facts and as they emerge they are taking appropriate action.

He says placing two people on leave does not pre-empt the findings of the review and they will continue to be involved in the ongoing invertigation.

The review will be finished by the end of the month.

The managers were placed on leave two days after Fonterra announced the resignation of its managing director of New Zealand Milk Products, Gary Romano, amid fallout from the botulism contamination.

Mr Romano fronted for the company during the initial days of the crisis.

On 3 August this year Fonterra revealed that 38 tonnes of its whey protein used by other manufacturers, including infant formula, was contaminated with a bacteria that can cause botulism. It suggested that the whey protein was tainted by a dirty pipe at the company's processing plant in Waikato in May 2012.

Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings has assumed interim responsibility for the day-to-day operations of New Zealand Milk Products.

The contamination scare has prompted countries including China and Russia to recall or ban some Fonterra products.

The first of four inquiries into Fonterra's botulism scare is expected to report within a fortnight.

On Friday, a Sri Lankan court issued an order preventing the sale, distribution and advertising of all Fonterra milk products for two weeks, according to a lawyer who appeared on behalf of the petitioner.

"An enjoining order was issued preventing Fonterra ... from whole selling, selling and distributing and or selling for agents of all brands of Fonterra products for a period of two weeks," Upul Jayasuriya, who appeared on behalf of National Health Services (Trade) Union, told Reuters newsagency.