Fonterra is caught up in another contamination scare, and is recalling fresh cream because of fears it could contain the E.coli bacterium.

Fonterra Brands NZ yesterday issued a voluntary recall for 300ml and 500ml bottles of Anchor and Pams fresh cream with a best-before date of January 21.

The recall involves 8700 bottles of fresh cream distributed to shops and food service outlets in the North Island from Northland to Turangi, including Gisborne.

Fonterra Brands NZ managing director Peter McClure said the recall was being done because tests had shown E.coli could be in some bottles of Anchor and Pams cream.


"We are sorry for the inconvenience and concern this recall might cause, but food safety and quality are our top priorities," Mr McClure said.

People were advised not to use the cream, but to return it to where they bought it for a refund.

Mr McClure told the Herald signs of E-coli were discovered during standard testing yesterday morning.

The tests showed an unusually high "spike" of coliform in fresh cream at Fonterra's Takanini plant in South Auckland.

Three samples were then sent for independent testing, which confirmed the contamination.

"All three samples they tested at an independent lab showed positive results for E.coli," Mr McClure said.

The results were "very, very unusual".

"In the last 20-odd years we've never had an incident of E.coli in milk despite periodic spiking in coliforms."

The cause of the contamination was being investigated and answers were expected "in a few days".

Mr McClure said the latest recall was "totally different" to last year's botulism scare, but the company, "didn't need this".

Most of the cream would probably still be in cool stores, he said, but some might be in people's homes.

"Some is probably in the hands of consumers and that's why we're initiating a recall."

If people wanted further information about the recall, they could contact the Fonterra Brands customer service centre on (0800) 256-257.

E.coli bacteria live in the intestines of humans and animals, and can be carried in faeces. Although most are harmless, several produce toxins that can cause diarrhoea, stomach cramps and vomiting.

In August last year, Fonterra triggered widespread alarm when it revealed it suspected 38 tonnes of whey protein, some of it used to make baby formula, had been contaminated with a botulism-causing bacterium.

It was later found to be a false alarm, but not before Fonterra customers had recalled a huge amount of baby formula products worth millions of dollars and New Zealand dairy imports were banned or restricted by China and other markets.

Affected batch numbers:
* Pams Cream 500ml - 1400684206 - best before date 21/01/2014
* Anchor Cream 500ml - 1400684207 - best before date 21/01/2014
* Anchor Cream 300ml - 1400684208 - best before date 21/01/2014
* Pams Cream 300ml - 1400684209 - best before date 21/01/2014.