WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Reuters) — The chief executive of New Zealand’s Fonterra said his future was up to the board of the world’s biggest dairy exporter after human error resulted in some of its products being contaminated and shipped around the world.
Theo Spierings tried to reassure customers and worried parents who feed their infants with formula milk made from Fonterra’s whey protein concentrate, saying all tainted stocks had been taken out of the market and there was now little or no risk to consumers.
New Zealand, which depends on the dairy industry for a quarter of its total exports, has been gripped by worries that a raft of recalls for infant formula in China, a major market, and other countries could cause a slump in demand or even bans for other dairy products.
Last week, Fonterra said it had discovered whey protein products that contained a bacteria that can cause botulism. It said previously its tests had found the contamination in a dirty pipe at one of its plants. No illnesses have been reported due to the contamination.
Asked if he would resign over the company’s handling of the scare, Spierings, who joined Fonterra in 2011, said: “It’s not up to me to answer, that’s up to the board.”