Fonterra finds aflatoxins in copra cattle feed

Publish time: 21st October, 2010      Source:
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October 21, 2010



Fonterra finds aflatoxins in copra cattle feed


A small amount of aflatoxins in farm milk recently supplied to Fonterra has been traced back to a one import of copra cattle feed but is not high enough to warrant alerting the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFA), the dairy firm says.



The last copra toxin scare was in 2007 when Fonterra ordered its farmers to stop feeding out the coconut husk derivative after finding elevated levels of toxins in milk.



After the 2007 scare, the dairy industry and feed manufacturing industry developed a best practice guideline to manage the use of copra cake by dairy farmers. Fonterra says the latest incident is tiny by comparison to the 2007 one.



Routine weekly testing and surveillance for copra aflatoxins by Fonterra late last month picked up a slight increase in the milk from 26 farms nationwide.



The company and four feed merchants reacted quickly and traced the contamination to one shipment, said Fonterra food safety and sustainable production manager Andy Goodwin.



The cancer-causing aflatoxins, considered highly carcinogenic, can be produced by moulds that grow naturally on crops before harvesting or can develop on feeds and other organic materials during storage. They survive pasteurisation and processing of dairy products.



The level of aflatoxins in the affected milk was "very small" and "miles" under the EU safety standard threshold, Goodwin said. It had not been necessary to notify the NZFA, but Fonterra had doubled its surveillance procedures.



"The milk is fine. It was at very, very low low levels. Feed merchants would have removed remaining affected copra from the farms by the end of this week," Goodwin said.



Copra has been increasingly imported as a feed supplement for dairying in recent years but in small quantities compared with palm kernel.



Fonterra is getting scientific advice from Australia in a bid to learn more about the toxin and the conditions in which it presents, Goodwin said. But the latest situation showed Fonterra''s surveillance programme was working and he had been delighted with the cooperation and response from the feed merchant industry.